How are Wetlands Regulated in Washington?

Wetlands are a vital ecosystem that provide a range of benefits, such as water purification, flood control, carbon sequestration, and habitat for wildlife. However, wetlands have been subject to extensive development and destruction over the years. In order to protect wetlands, the state of Washington has established regulations to govern their use and conservation. In this blog post, we will explore how Washington state regulates wetlands.

Definition of Wetlands in Washington State

In Washington state, wetlands are defined as areas of land that are frequently saturated with water and support a variety of aquatic plants and animals. They can be found in a variety of landscapes, including forests, grasslands, and coastal areas. Wetlands provide numerous benefits to the environment, such as filtering water, reducing flooding, and providing habitat for wildlife.

skunk cabbage growing in wetlands.
Swamp lantern growing in Washington wetland


Wetland Protection and Permitting

Washington state has established a robust regulatory framework to protect wetlands. The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for implementing and enforcing wetland protection laws. Under these laws, it is illegal to fill or alter a wetland without a permit. The permit process is designed to ensure that any impacts to wetlands are minimized and mitigated.

There are two types of wetland permits in Washington state: individual permits and general permits. Individual permits are required for activities that have a significant impact on wetlands. These permits are issued on a case-by-case basis and require a detailed analysis of the proposed activity and its potential impact on the wetland. General permits are issued for activities that have minimal impact on wetlands, such as routine maintenance activities. These permits are typically issued for a set period of time and cover a specific geographic area.

The permit process in Washington state involves several steps. First, the applicant must submit a permit application to the Department of Ecology. The application must include a detailed description of the proposed activity, as well as a wetland delineation report that identifies the location and extent of the wetland. The Department of Ecology then reviews the application and conducts a site visit to assess the wetland and its surroundings. If the proposed activity is likely to have a significant impact on the wetland, the applicant may be required to submit a mitigation plan to offset the impact.

wetland in western Washington
Wetland in western Washington.


Wetland Mitigation

If an activity is likely to have a significant impact on a wetland, the applicant may be required to mitigate the impact. Mitigation involves creating or restoring wetlands to offset the loss of the original wetland. Mitigation can take several forms, such as creating a new wetland on-site, restoring a degraded wetland, or purchasing wetland credits from a wetland bank.

Wetland mitigation in Washington state is regulated by the Department of Ecology. The Department of Ecology maintains a list of approved mitigation banks and a database of wetland mitigation projects. Mitigation banks are created by organizations or individuals who have restored or created wetlands that can be used to offset the impacts of permitted activities. Wetland credits can be purchased from a mitigation bank to offset the loss of a wetland that is impacted by a permitted activity.

Wetland Delineation & Rating 

Before a wetland permit can be issued, the wetland must be delineated and rated. Wetland assessment involves evaluating the ecological value of the wetland, including its hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife habitat. Wetland delineation involves identifying the boundaries of the wetland using specific criteria, such as soil types, vegetation, and hydrology. Wetland assessment and delineation are typically conducted by a qualified wetland professional.

In Washington state, wetland assessment and delineation must follow specific guidelines established by the Department of Ecology. The guidelines specify the methods and criteria that must be used to identify and evaluate wetlands. The guidelines also specify the qualifications and training required for wetland professionals


Learn more about the services Peninsula Environmental offers in wetlands, shorelines and streams.

One thought on “How are Wetlands Regulated in Washington?

  1. Hi , I am contacting you for some wetland survey and delineation or possible recreational use of the wetland .

    Can you please give me a quick call at 2065886455

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