Permitting Adaptations for a Multi-jurisdictional Multi-phased Project

Year: 2022
Presenter/s: Christina Merten
Symposium Session: 2022 - 02 Big Challenges Need Adaptive Management
Topics covered: fish-salmon, lessons learned, permits, and wetlands


Permitting is a major obstacle to implementing multi-phase, large-scale restoration projects. These projects often involve numerous agencies all operating under an evolving “rule book”. An excellent study of this evolving process is the WSDOT SR 167 Completion Project, Hylebos Riparian Restoration Program (RRP) and Wapato RRP. WSDOT is in the process of planning, designing, and constructing this three-phase project, which entails 6 miles of new highway to connect the Port of Tacoma to the existing SR 167 in Puyallup. The SR 167 Completion Project represents a unique opportunity, which WSDOT is maximizing, to alleviate chronic flooding problems while providing substantial ecological lift for fish and wildlife through creation of the Hylebos and Wapato RRPs. The Hylebos and Wapato RRPs will mitigate for wetland and stream impacts proposed through large-scale river and floodplain restoration adjacent to the highway development.

The project is within the Puyallup Tribe of Indians (PTOI) reservation and crosses the jurisdiction of 5 cities and Pierce County. New highway construction will result in placement of fill in more than 20 acres of existing wetlands and over a mile of stream channel. Permitting will require approvals from Corps of Engineers, EPA, PTOI, Department of Ecology, WDFW, as well as the variety of local permitting agencies.

The phasing of this project over a period of years provides an ability for WSDOT to implement lessons learned along the way to improve permitting timelines, while grappling with the changing rule book. The first phase of the project was successfully permitted in 2019 and construction will wrap up in 2021. The second phase, including construction of the Hylebos RRP, submitted permit requests on September 10, 2020, qualifying for permit review under the CWA 404 and CWA 401 regulations in place at that time. The third phase of the project will submit for permits in 2022 and be subject to the CWA Section 404 and 401 regulations that will be in effect at the time of submittal. This changing federal permit framework along with multiple local jurisdiction permits has created a very dynamic permitting environment for the project and a great opportunity to implement improvements in each successive phase.

The project team has successfully jumped regulatory and policy hurdles, including JARPA drawings size restrictions that created the largest application package ever seen by the Seattle District Corps. JARPA drawings have become more complicated in later phases as construction, restoration activities, and policies are changing the types of impacts that are occurring.

This presentation includes review of the hurdles faced and examples of innovative approaches to addressing these challenges. For example, the permitting approach included development of GIS web-based mapping for these phases that allows for interactive reviews by the regulatory agencies. Approaches like these will support better communication and efficiency for the review of impacts and mitigation needs for large-scale river restoration projects. This and similar large restoration projects implemented during this historic time of the changing rule book can serve as examples to be discussed at future RRNW roundtables around learning lessons in the permitting realm.