Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA) Code
What Is It?
Our Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA) Code governs areas of Seattle that provide critical environmental functions. For example, wetlands can protect water quality and provide fish and wildlife habitat. Our ECA code also addresses areas that represent particular challenges for development due to geologic or other natural conditions. The goal of our ECA regulations, (Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) chapter 25.09) is to effectively protect these areas and to protect public safety, while allowing reasonable development in our growing city.
Designated environmentally critical areas are defined in SMC 25.09.012 and are generally described as:
- Geologic hazard areas including:
- Landslide-prone areas (including potential landslide areas and known landslide areas)
- Liquefaction-prone areas (sites with loose, saturated soil that lose the strength needed to support a building during earthquakes)
- Peat-settlement-prone areas (sites containing peat and organic soils that may settle when the area is developed or the water table is lowered)
- Seismic hazard areas
- Steep slope erosion hazard areas
- Volcanic hazard areas
- Flood-prone areas
- Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas including:
- Riparian watercourses (all streams and Haller and Bitter Lakes)
- Riparian Management Areas (the land within 100 feet of riparian watercourse)
- Areas designated by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife as priority habitats and species areas
- Areas designated by our Director as habitat for species of local importance
- Corridors connecting priority habitats and species areas or habitat areas for species of local importance, when certain criteria are met
- Shoreline Habitat, which is all Type 1 waters in Seattle, including Puget Sound, Duwamish River, Ship Canal, Lake Union, Portage Bay, Union Bay, Lake Washington, and Green Lake
- Abandoned landfills
You can use our online map tool to see if your property has any mapped ECAs. Most of these maps are advisory; they help us identify potential ECAs on your property. We will use detailed property information, such as a topographic survey or wetland report, to confirm if an ECA is present. There are some types of ECAs that we are required to identify based on the maps; for example, priority habitat areas identified by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and peat-settlement prone areas. Your property may also have ECAs that are not shown on our maps.
If your property contains an ECA or a buffer for an ECA, we have specific regulations, based on the type of ECA, for how you can develop your property or disturb any land, including altering vegetation or adding impervious surface. We suggest that you visit our Applicant Services Center for more information.
Read the Code
If you have an ECA on your property, you will need to comply with the rules that apply to that ECA.You can find detailed definitions of each ECA in Regulations for Environmentally Critical Areas (SMC 25.09).
- Director's Rule 19-2006, Requirements for Wetland Professionals and Wetland Delineation Reports
- Director's Rule 30-2006, Update of Wetland Environmentally Critical Areas Mapping
- Director's Rule 3-2007, Application Submittal Requirements in Environmentally Critical Areas
- Director's Rule 4-2007, Permanent Markers Delineating ECAs and Associated Buffer Areas
- Tip 103B, Environmentally Critical Area Site Plan Requirements
- Tip 327A, Environmentally Critical Areas Exemptions, Relief from Prohibition on Steep Slope Development, and Modifications to Submittal Requirements — Application Instructions and Submittal Requirements
- Tip 327B, Environmentally Critical Areas — Small Project Waivers Application Instructions and Submittal Requirements
- Tip 328, ECA Exceptions
- Tip 329, ECA Administrative Conditional Use Permit—Application Instructions and Submittal Requirements
- Tip 330, ECA—Yard & Setback, Steep Slope and Wetland Buffer Variances
- Tip, 331, Environmentally Critical Areas: Trees and Vegetation
- Tip 331A, Environmentally Critical Areas: Vegetation Restoration
- Tip 331B, Hazard Trees
Director’s Rule 5-2007, Great Blue Heron Management Plan is being updated and will likely be effective in early 2018. Please see the Land Use Information Bulletin Notice for more information. You can also view the summary of our recently updated environmentally critical areas regulations by visiting our Environmentally Critical Areas Update Project Document page.