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[Portal ID #1949]

Commerce Update of Critical Areas Guidance

Summary of the project

Wetlands rating system, Voluntary Stewardship Program, agricultural activities, FEMA Biological Opinion, availability of LiDAR, monitoring and adaptive management, a salmon recovery roadmap, and other new issues, programs and technologies will be addressed in this update to Commerce guidance on critical areas regulation. 

Commerce sent out a survey to local planners and consultants to assess county and city needs for guidance on this topic. We will use input from the survey, a technical advisory committee, and a local government sounding board to scope the content of this guidance update to best fit the needs for cities and counties. Results of Local Government CAO Update Survey

Timing for Issuance of Draft Chapters for Review

The first chapter of the guidance to be drafted for public review is the Monitoring and Adaptive Management chapter. This chapter was drafted first because it is a new chapter. Other chapters that incorporate updates of the WAC and links to state agency resources for best available science and management recommendations will be available later in early 2018 for public review.

Critical Areas Monitoring and Adaptive Management Workshops

Peninsula Planners Forum - January 18, 2018, Poulsbo - Part I: and April 19, 2018, location TBD - Part II

Mount Vernon - February 5, 2018

Seattle - February 27, 2018

South Sound Planners Forum in Olympia - March 21, 2018

Southwest Planners Forum, Vancouver - April 11, 2018

Eastern Planners Forum, Moses Lake - April 25, 2018Pen

Growth Management Services, WDFW, Ecology, and the other state natural resource agencies are excited to introduce a new chapter in the Critical Areas Assistance Handbook on monitoring and adaptive management to improve permit implementation. Growth Management Services is in the process of updating the Handbook, and this is the first chapter that has been drafted for public review. We have been working with a state technical committee and a local government sounding board to draft this chapter and other updates to the Handbook.

 All counties and cities in the state have adopted critical areas regulations and permitting procedures under the Growth Management Act and the Shoreline Management Act. They have adopted these regulations to facilitate protection of critical areas. But, a local government doesn’t have any way of knowing if they are achieving that goal without looking at the permit process and the on-the-ground results of critical areas regulation. They need a feedback loop to help determine whether goals are being met, and if the goals are not being met, how to improve the process.

This new chapter provides a suggested process for starting a permit monitoring program that can help local governments begin to address that gap in knowledge, and to improve permit implementation to protect critical areas. The chapter provides a number of case studies of counties and cities (and state and federal agencies) that have adopted and are implementing monitoring programs – why they set up a program, what they are monitoring, and what changes they are making in response to the information they have gathered. State data sources that can be used for monitoring are provided. An example local government permit tracking spreadsheet is included as a chapter appendix.

Please check out the new chapter on the Library/Draft Documents page . Please note that this is the first draft chapter that has been issued for review. Other draft chapters will be posted for public review throughout the summer and fall of 2017.


Commerce Critical Areas Workshops:Commerce and other state agencies presented critical areas workshops at planners forums around the state in 2016. To view the presentations and materials from these workshops, go to the Events page.

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