Environmental permits & approvals

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Permits and approvals help us build and maintain our state highways in a way that minimizes environmental impacts. Federal, tribal, state, and local resource agencies authorize work that may impact the environmental resources they manage, like water or protected species, by issuing permits and approvals.

Find information on permitting tasks, including;

Read Chapter 500: Environmental Permitting and PS&E of our Environmental Manual for more information about the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) permitting policies. For general information on permitting processes and common permits and approvals see the Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) Regulatory Handbook.

Permits and approvals are one type of environmental regulatory compliance. Additional requirements are covered in our environmental disciplines pages.

 

Before applying for a permit or approval

Coordinate with the design team and schedule a visit the work site early in the environmental review to consider how the scope, footprint, and federal nexus will affect the permit and approval needs.

Scope – What activities will take place as part of the work? Some permits and approvals are triggered by the type of work.

Footprint – Where the work will be taking place? What are the sensitive resources in the area? Will the work impact those resources? Some permits are triggered by where the work is located.

Federal nexus – Is a federal agency funding or approving the work? Some permits and approvals are triggered by whether or not there is a federal nexus.

Use the environmental disciplines webpages and the list of common permits below to identify:

  • Sensitive resources in the work area.
  • How to avoid and minimize impacts to the sensitive resources. The Design Team should document how the impacts to sensitive resources were avoided and minimized during the design process.
  • The agencies with jurisdiction over the resource.
  • The permits and approvals needed (including streamlining opportunities such as the use of general permits) for impacts to the resources.
  • How to apply for the necessary permits and approvals.

Coordinate early and often with the Design Team and the resource agencies throughout the environmental review and permitting processes.

 

Preparing a complete application

Permit applications are generally a combination of three things: an application form, supplemental or supporting documents, and drawings. Each agency has different permit application requirements.

For all agencies, prepare a complete application by:

  • Following the instructions for each permit or approval carefully. Provide all the required information.
  • Coordinating with the resource agencies early and throughout the environmental review process to determine the permit requirements and if you have questions.
  • Making the documents reader-friendly. The resource agency, not the public or WSDOT, is the audience. Use the guidance on the Preparing quality environmental documents webpage.
  • Having an internal review of the application before you submit it. This is required by state law (RCW 47.85.020).
  • Making sure the application is signed by the appropriate WSDOT staff.

 

After getting the permit or approval

Review the permit conditions with the design and construction teams to make sure they are feasible and consistent with the plans and budget. If the conditions are not feasible or you have questions, coordinate with the resource agency. An appeal of the permit may be needed if you cannot reach consensus with the resource agency.

Track the commitments to ensure work is in compliance during the different phases of project delivery. For more information on tracking and complying with permit conditions go to the environmental compliance webpage.

 

Modifying permits or approvals

You may need to modify your permit or approval if the scope, footprint, schedule, or federal nexus of the work changes. Coordinate with the resource agency staff to determine if a modification is needed, and how to get one, if there was a change in the work.

 

Common permits and approvals

Find out when and how to obtain the most common types of permits and approvals below:

Permits for work in wetlands and streams

Wetlands and streams are protected under Sections 404 & 401 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Apply for a permit under these laws when work is in or over a wetland or stream. Use this webpage during scoping to help develop the project schedule or during permitting when you are preparing a permit application.

Work in or around wetlands, streams, and the coast may require permits from many different federal, state, and local agencies. Use the information on this page to apply for some permits and approvals with the Joint Aquatic Resource Permit Application (JARPA).
Work that crosses over a waterbody or includes in-water work may require coverage under a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Use this page to find out how to apply for and use the two types of HPAs, individual and general Hydraulic Project Approvals (GHPAs), and to learn what to do if there is a non-compliance event.
Some work can produce pollutants that could make their way to surface waters like streams, lakes, and the Puget Sound. The information on this page will help you determine if you need to apply for a new permit or comply with an existing permit for the discharge of pollutants to surface waters.
When work is in or around surface and groundwater, there are two permits that you may need that do not accept Joint Aquatic Resource Permit Application (JARPA).
Use this page for information on when and how to apply for permits from local agencies.
For work on federal or state lands