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Environmentally Critical Areas Update

A Blue Heron flying in the sky
Reviewing and updating our environmentally critical areas code to ensure we follow current best practices and state rules.

What's Happening Now?

We have completed a staff draft of the recommended changes to the Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA) regulations in order to meet the Growth Management Act’s (GMA) requirement to update our ECA regulations. This update is to ensure compliance with GMA requirements, including reviewing best available science (BAS) and making changes based on any new BAS information. The last major update to our ECA regulations occurred in 2006.

Our proposed changes reflect updates to the BAS for protecting wetland functions, preserving great blue heron habitat, and managing impervious surfaces. Additionally, our proposal includes changes to the regulations for development on large sites with steep slope areas; the changes would result in structures that are more compatible with existing development and continue to allow recovery of development credit. The amendments also clarify language and correct typographical errors to make the code easier to use and implement.

In addition to the proposed amendments to the ECA regulations, we updated the Director’s Rule for Great Blue Heron Management Plans (DR 5-2007). This update reflects Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) latest recommendations for protecting great blue heron and their nests. Great blue heron are listed as a WDFW Priority Species and a species of local importance in Seattle.

The Director’s Report included with our draft of the regulations summarizes the regulatory changes and provides additional information regarding the requirements of the ECA update.

Draft Environmentally Critical Areas Regulations
Draft Great Blue Heron Director’s Rule
Draft Director’s Report

Next Steps

We will accept comments on the draft regulations through November 10, 2015. During this time, our staff is available to attend meetings to discuss the proposed changes. Please contact Nick Welch for scheduling or more information: or (206) 684-8203. Please submit your comments to Maggie Glowacki via e-mail or via USPS to:

Margaret Glowacki
P.O. Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-401

After the close of the public comment period, we will review comments, make additional changes as appropriate, and do a SEPA analysis of the legislation. We expect this to occur at the end of November.

Project Benefits

By updating our ECA policies and regulations to improve their effectiveness and to include updated best available science, we can better protect our critical areas and manage development in areas that are hazardous to build on. We can also enhance the urban environment by protecting wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, riparian corridors, and other ecological resources. The health of these areas is an important indicator of the overall health and well-being of our city.

The End Result

Our updated ECA policies and regulations will continue to comply with the Growth Management Act and include current best available science.

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