State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Process

Our SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) actions include documenting environmental impacts for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) actions and commenting on other agency actions.   

View this graphic for an overview of the SEPA process (jpg 331 kb).

Before you begin

We typically document SEPA as part of our NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) documentation when both NEPA and SEPA are required. Use the procedures on this page if completing SEPA without NEPA, to ensure consistency with SEPA rules.

Read Chapter 400:Environmental Review and Transportation Decision Making of the Environmental Manual for policies to consider when conducting the SEPA process for WSDOT projects. 

SEPA for WSDOT projects 

Find step-by-step guidance for compliance with SEPA rules in the Washington State Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) SEPA Handbook (pdf 1.96 kb).

Important procedures for completing WSDOT SEPA reviews include:

Determining the appropriate categorical exemption

We use Categorical Exemptions (CEs) from a number of rules and laws as outlined below. When determining the appropriate steps to take, consider the following:

  1. Make sure you check all possible exemptions before ruling out that the project is a CE.
  2. If another agency is taking an action and needs its own SEPA statement, coordinate with all agencies with jurisdiction to make sure you have the right SEPA strategy for your project.
  3. If the other agency is taking a non-exempt action, our SEPA exemption may not be sufficient and the project might need a SEPA checklist and DNS.

When completing SEPA for your project, consider these rules and laws:

In order to be exempt, our projects have to meet the categories defined in law and rule. Main SEPA categorical exemptions are in SEPA rules (WAC 197-11-800) or in statute 43.21c RCW.

WAC 468-12-800 describes how typical WSDOT actions fit within WAC 197-11-800.
Please note, WSDOT SEPA procedures have not been updated since 1987, so the description of actions consistent with state SEPA rules may be incomplete.

WAC 197-11-860 contains WSDOT specific SEPA exemptions.

In 2014, Ecology aligned SEPA exemptions with NEPA exclusions for typical agency actions. They added a CE for WSDOT to exempt projects that repair, reconstruct, restore, retrofit, or replace any transportation facility (WAC 197-11-800(26)).

Adopting NEPA documents under SEPA rules

Project Teams should complete the NEPA and SEPA environmental review process for an EIS simultaneously in a single document. Adopt a NEPA EA using the form found in WAC 197-11-965.

According to our SEPA delegation, the ESO Director signs an EIS and a Region/Mode Environmental Manager signs a DNS and all CEs. 

Reviewing other agency SEPA documents

SEPA rules require each lead agency to involve other agencies and the public, proportional to the type and scope of the circulated environmental documents. When consulted on other agency proposals, we have a responsibility to respond in a timely and specific manner. WSDOT and Ecology guidance directs agencies on this process.

Use the WSDOT Development Services Manual for guidance on:

  1. The role of SEPA in other agency reviews.
  2. Which environmental impacts WSDOT normally reviews.
  3. WSDOT’s perspective of significant adverse impacts on the state highway system.

Agencies send SEPA documents to these SEPA Lead Agency Contacts when public notice is required, according to each agencies’ SEPA public notice procedures. A map of regional WSDOT SEPA document reviewers (pdf 404 kb) is kept on this site.

WSDOT Developer Services staff work with local governments to address how Growth Management Act (GMA) actions and independent development proposals might impact state transportation facilities. Preferably, WSDOT works with local governments and developers to identify actions to offset and avoid impacting the state transportation network.