< Back to Recommendations

Recommendation: 4

Status: Underway

Immediately strengthen protection of Chinook and forage fish habitat through legislation that amends existing statutes, agency rulemaking, and/or agency policy.


Action 1

Strengthen legislation, rules, or internal policies for Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Ecology to better protect Chinook and forage fish.

Action 2

Direct the Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a plan with local governments to analyze long-term impacts to fish and their habitats of construction projects in water and to allow for mitigation of those impacts under a permit.

Action 3

Authorize agencies to require the use of less impactful construction methods for construction projects in waterways.

Action 4

Provide agencies with clear authority to prohibit or mitigate certain actions.

Implementation Details

  • Meet regularly with the Governor’s Office, legislators, tribes, state agencies, regional salmon recovery representatives, and other stakeholders to develop a habitat protection and regulatory reform legislative package for the 2019 and subsequent legislative sessions and rulemaking.  
  • Improve coordination of local and state permits by requiring that local shoreline permits for single-family residential bulkheads, shoreline armor, or rock walls be issued before the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issues a Hydraulic Project Approval. This would be added to the Hydraulic Project Approval statute (Revised Code of Washington 77.55.021). 
  • Repeal the section of the Hydraulic Project Approval statute that requires the issuance of a permit (with or without conditions) for a single-family residential bulkhead, shoreline armor, or rock wall to allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider the full impacts of these proposals consistent with its consideration of other aquatic projects. 
  • Direct the Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a plan with local governments for analyzing cumulative impacts of projects permitted under the Hydraulic Project Approval program and ask the Legislature to rescind or amend appropriate portions of the department’s authority (Revised Code of Washington 77.55.231[1]) to enable the agency to require mitigation for cumulative impacts over time. This should be coupled with increased enforcement capacity.

Recent Progress

  • In 2022, the Governor proposed a bill to further protect the vegetated areas along streams, called riparian areas, important to salmon habitat and recovery. While the bill did not pass, funding to enhance riparian areas was provided to the Recreation and Conservation Office and the Conservation Commission, and several studies were funded including a comprehensive review of aerial imaging and an evaluation of riparian incentives and regulatory programs.
  • The Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission approved new rules for in-water projects that are expected to increase Chinook abundance and ensure better habitat protection. The rules do the following:
    • Removed the requirement that the department issue permits with or without conditions for single-family residential bulkheads and rock walls.
    • Created a pre-application process to determine if permitting is required.
    • Increased the civil penalty for violations of the hydraulic code to $10,000 per violation.
    • Authorized the department to halt hydraulic projects that may cause harm to fish.
    • Authorized a recreational fishing license for smelt (food for salmon) in saltwater.
    • Increased catch limits for fish that prey on juvenile salmon.
  • The Legislature awarded $1.2 million to create a permit assistance program.

More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.