Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Washington State Aquatic Lands Conservation Plan

By PMM Staff

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has announced a plan to impose comprehensive long-term rules and standards for marine businesses that lease aquatic lands from Washington State.

The Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan, available online at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/ResearchScience/Topics/AquaticHCP/Pages/aqr_aquatics_hcp.aspx, is intended to protect “at-risk native aquatic species” on 2.6 million acres of state-owned lands covered by marine and fresh waters.

The state is accepting comments on the plan until Thursday, December 4th, and at press time, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has “not seen a need” to extend the comment period.

Among the plan’s impacts on the maritime industry will be the requirement that businesses, either applying for a new lease or during their lease renewal, commit to meeting the new standards. Among the required new standards will be the elimination of all treated wood piling and decking on piers, the elimination of bulkheads and armored banks and the limiting of lighting on docks and piers.
Applicants and lessees will also be required to assess water drainage and runoff patterns and develop and implement a plan to alter or treat them, as necessary, to reduce the introduction of contaminants and nutrients into state waters.

Further, all marinas, shipyards, and terminals will be required to implement the conservation measures for all authorizations including an aquatic vegetation buffer of 25 feet from the hull of motorized vessels to avoid dredging and scour caused by propellers. Grounding of boats and the need for dredging must be avoided through the use of naturally deep water, achieved by locating slips in deeper water, orienting facilities so that entrances align with natural channels or providing onshore storage facilities.

Further requirements for new or renewed leases will include orienting docks with currents or prevailing winds to prevent trapping surface debris and oily residue and maintaining dredged basins in a manner that prevents internal deeper pockets that can act as unflushed holding basins.

Piers and docks that are above the nearshore or littoral area must have unobstructed grating over 100 percent of their surface area. Floats must have unobstructed grating over at least 50 percent of their surface. All grating material must have at least 60 percent functional open space.

The state says the Habitat Conservation Plan will protect 29 sensitive, threatened and endangered aquatic species and help identify and restore habitat on state-owned aquatic lands.

Comments on the plan may be submitted by e-mail to WFWOComments@fws.gov. In the subject line of the email, please include the identifier: WDNR Aquatic Lands HCP DEIS. All comments must be received no later than December 4, 2014.