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Washington Administrative Agency Decisions, Guidance & Resources: Environment & Natural Resources

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Updated Dec. 4, 2013.

This research guide introduces legal researchers to the Washington state agencies responsible for regulating environmental quality and natural resources. It also provides them with an overview of these agencies' online legal resources. This guide is not comprehensive; it is intended to alert legal researchers to some of the  important legal information available at free administrative agency websites.


Columbia River Gorge Commission

Columbia River Gorge Commission

The Columbia River Gorge Commission (CRGC) is charged with protecting and enhancing the natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge.

Law-related resources include:

Guidance about Land Use Applications (including links to Land Use Application and Handbook and Scenic Handbook)

Land Use Decisions (organized by date, most recent first)

CRGC Administrative Rules

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Conservation Commission

Conservation Commission

The Conservation Commission assists and guides conservation districts as they work with local communities to conserve renewable natural resources.

See also the Commission's Rulemaking activities.

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Ecology Department

Department of Ecology

The Department of Ecology is the Washington state equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By law, Ecology has broad authority to implement and enforce environmental laws and rules relating to protecting water supplies, protecting air quality, managing and reducing waste, cleaning up contaminated water and land, reducing toxic substances in the environment, and supporting sustainable communities and natural resources.

The Department of Ecology’s website contains a wealth of information and guidance material.:

Compliance and Enforcement efforts, such as:

Laws and Rules links to rule-making activities and related publications, as well as laws (Revised Code of Washington/ RCW) and rules (Washington Administrative Code WAC) administered by the Department.

Toxics Cleanup Program (TCP) policies, procedures, and technical memoranda are advisory, non-binding statements reflecting the Department’s interpretation of the Model Toxics Control statute and rules, and approaches to implementation, arranged by number.

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Energy Site Evaluation Council Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) coordinates all evaluation and licensing steps for siting certain energy facilities in Washington.  EFSEC also manages an environmental and safety oversight program of facility and site operations.

The EFSEC’s website provides researchers with:

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Environmental & Land Use Hearings Office

On July 1, 2011, the Environmental Hearings Office (EHO) and the consolidated Growth Management Board merged to become the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO). The ELUHO is now the umbrella administrative agency for three separate boards: the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB), the Shoreline Hearings Board (SHB), and the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) that hear appeals of certain land use and environmental decisions in Washington. Each of these three boards operates independent of one another, hearing appeals and deciding cases within their separate areas of expertise and jurisdiction.

The former EHO also housed the Forest Practice Appeals Board (FPAB) and the Hydraulics Appeals Board (HAB).  Effective July 1, 2010, all appeals previously filed with the FPAB or HAB are filed with the PCHB.

Helpful resources for researchers available from the ELUHO include:

For decisions and resources of the GMHB see Growth Management Hearings Board below.

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Fish & Wildlife Department

Department of Fish & Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources. The Department operates under a dual mandate from the Washington Legislature to: (1) protect and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats, and (2) provide sustainable, fish- and wildlife-related recreational and commercial opportunities.

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Forest Practices Appeals Board

The Forest Practices Appeals Board (FPAB) previously heard appeals from decisions of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) including the approval or disapproval of a forest practices application, civil penalties, stop work orders and notices to comply. After June 30, 2010, all forest practice appeals are filed with the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).

Historical information about the FPAB includes links to statutes and regulations.

See Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO)for links to decisions of the former FPAB.

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Forest Practices Board

The Forest Practices Board adopts rules that set standards for forest practices such as timber harvests, pre-commercial thinning, road construction, and forest chemical applications. It is part of the Department of Natural Resources.

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Growth Management Hearings Board

The Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) adjudicates allegations that a city, county, or state agency has not complied with the goals and requirements of the Growth Management Act (GMA) and related provisions of the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). In 2010, three regional growth management hearing boards were consolidated into one. Further, the GMHB is now part of the umbrella agency, the Environmental & Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO).

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Hydraulics Appeals Board

Hydraulics Appeals Board

The Hydraulics Appeals Board (HAB) had exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals arising from the approval, denial, conditioning, or modification of a hydraulic approval issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the diversion of water for agricultural irrigation or stock watering purposes or when associated with streambank stabilization to protect farm and agricultural land or off-site migration proposals. The HAB was abolished pursuant to House Bill 2935. After June 30, 2010, all hydraulic appeals are filed with the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).

Historical information about the HAB includes links to statutes and regulations.

See content referenced under the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO) for decisions of the former HAB.

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Natural Resources Department

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the agency responsible for protecting and managing 5.6 million acres of state-owned land. Much of the land is state trust land that provides revenue to help pay for construction of public schools, universities, and other state institutions.

The Legislative Information Page links to information about legislation requested by the Department; the Business and Permits Information Page provides various “how-to” guides, DNR publications, and information about topics such as land leasing, timber sale auctions, forest practices, school funding and trust beneficiaries, and mining and energy regulation. The Science & Environment Information Page covers topics such as geologic hazards and mapping and aquatic clean-up and restoration.

The following organizations are part of the DNR:

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Pollution Control Hearings Board

The Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) hears appeals from orders and decisions made by the Department of Ecology and other agencies as provided by law. Since June 30, 2010, all appeals previously heard by the Hydraulic Appeals Board (HAB) and the Forest Practices Appeals Board (FPAB) are filed with the PCHB.

The PCHB website includes links to statutes and regulations.

Refer to the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO) for links to decisions of the PCHB.

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Recreation & Conservation Office

The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is a small state agency at manages grant programs to create outdoor recreation opportunities, protect the best of the state's wildlife habitat and farmland, and help return salmon from near extinction.

The RCO’s website contains links to information about Rule-Making activities (if any) and RCO documents, including publications, legislative reports, and forms.

The RCO supports the work of the following organizations:

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Shoreline Hearings Board

The Shoreline Hearings Board hears appeals from Department of Ecology decisions related to shoreline substantial development, conditional use, and variance permits.

The SHB website includes links to Rules of Practice Before the SHB.

Refer to the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO) for links to decisions of the SHB

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