Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan
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Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan 

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Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan
As steward of more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ensures that the people of Washington benefit from the use of aquatic lands while also ensuring environmental protection of the state’s aquatic resources.

DNR believes the most effective way to provide sustainable stewardship of our aquatic lands into the future is to develop and implement a habitat conservation plan (HCP).

In September 2012,  DNR submitted a draft of the Aquatic Lands HCP to the two federal “services” agencies responsible for approving the plan: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).

Update 12/24/13: In 2014, the draft HCP and accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will go out for public review. Then, DNR will apply to the services for Section 10 (“incidental take”) permits.

Download the HCP timeline for more background on the process to develop the plan.(Updated Nov. 7, 2013)

07/03/2014 Update on the Status of the National Environmental Policy Act Review: The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Services) announced plans in 2006 to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed issuance of two incidental take permits to the Washington Department of Natural Resources.  Since that time, the DNR and the Services have been cooperating on development of the Habitat Conservation Plan, and have been analyzing potential environmental effects, which are documented in the draft EIS.  The Services plan to publish the draft EIS and the draft HCP in late summer 2014 for public comment.


What is an HCP?
A habitat conservation plan defines how lands are managed and the measures used to ensure long-term, landscape-based protection of federally listed and non-listed species considered at risk of extinction. The plan is a formalized contract between the land manager (DNR) and the federal services agencies charged with protecting endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

Under the Aquatic Lands HCP, DNR will commit to strategies that protect and enhance habitats that support at-risk species. The plan emphasizes habitat conservation and recovery, and ecosystem health as the basis for strong long-term management. The aquatic HCP will guide how and where uses of state-owned aquatic lands will occur.

Learn more about HCPs.

Why is DNR pursuing an HCP for state-owned aquatic lands?
The population of Washington State continues to grow, resulting in increased pressure on our aquatic ecosystems. Balancing public benefit and environmental preservation is proving to be a difficult task.

An aquatic HCP will help DNR protect sensitive, threatened, and endangered species that are native to Washington State and depend on aquatic habitat. An aquatic HCP will also ensure that activities authorized by DNR, such as leasing for marinas and aquaculture, can continue while avoiding and minimizing impacts to endangered species. By committing to the conservation strategies in the aquatic HCP, DNR and entities that lease state-owned aquatic lands will receive federal assurances of compliance with the ESA.

What species will the HCP protect?
The draft Aquatic HCP proposes a number of guidelines to help protect animals that rely on aquatic lands for all or a significant portion of their lives. The draft plan proposes to include coverage for 29 at-risk species.

The draft Aquatic HCP focuses on protecting the nearshore marine environment, lakes, and rivers, which are crucial for the health of the entire ecosystem. The plan addresses the impacts of shade, sediment compaction, disruption of the flow of water and sediment, contamination and noise.

What uses will the HCP address?
The Aquatic HCP will include specific measures to address impacts from three types of activities:

  • Overwater structures (boat ramps, launches, docks and wharves; floating homes; mooring buoys; nearshore buildings; rafts and floats; marinas; shipyards, and terminals.) 
  • Log booms (large rafts of logs that are stored in the water)
  • Shellfish aquaculture (clam, oyster and geoduck culture methods)

For more information: "Preventing Impacts to Important Aquatic Habitats"

Supporting documents for the HCP development
The following documents were developed to assist DNR with ESA compliance efforts and in the development of the Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan. 

  • Aquatic Vegetation: Potential Impacts of Covered Activities and Buffer Recommendations — Technical memorandum to support performance standards for the Aquatic Lands HCP and addresses conservation measures and impacts associated with submerged aquatic vegetation. (October 2010) [163 KB PDF]
  • Potential Covered Activities Technical Paper — A review of the types of authorized uses that occur on state-owned aquatic lands. The paper also describes how these uses are regulated and how they were classified, where they are located and how many acres they occupy. (Revised Oct. 2007) [22 MB PDF]
  • Covered Habitat Technical Paper — Describes and quantifies the freshwater and saltwater habitats managed by Washington DNR. [2.4 BM PDF]
  • Covered Species Technical Paper — Describes the life history, current and historic habitat, and threats for the 87 species originally considered in developing the Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan. (Note that DNR is currently proposing coverage for 29 at-risk species.) [8.2 MB PDF]
  • Habitat Classification Verification and Activities Effects Report — Addresses the accuracy of the habitats discussed in the Cover Habitat Technical Paper. [2.6 KB PDF]
  • Effectiveness Monitoring Design: Suggested Approaches and Considerations — Describes potential methodologies for selecting conservation measures for inclusion in an Effectiveness Monitoring Plan, as well as the steps to select and design field protocols. [6.8 MB PDF]
  • Potential Effects and Expected Outcomes Technical Paper — Describes the direct and indirect effects on species and their habitat for those activities that the HCP will address. Evaluates actions to avoid and minimize these effects. Describes the expected reduction in affected habitat as a result of implementing conservation measures. (Appendices in a separate document.) [Paper — 3.9 MB PDF; Appendices — 3.7 MB PDF]
  • HCP Science Review Panel Final Report — In 2006, a panel of scientists from academia, and state and federal agencies convened to assess whether DNR was using sound scientific principles and information in the development of the HCP. The findings of this group are available in the Science Review Panel Final Report. [292 KB PDF]
  • Aquatic Lands Habitat Management Tool — A GIS-based decision-making tool to assist DNR staff with decisions about HCP-covered species and habitats on state-owned aquatic lands. The tool consists of a spatially explicit dataset summarizing conditions on aquatic lands statewide, providing a coarse-scale relative comparison of habitat conditions in marine and freshwater environments, enabling the identification of priority locations for aquatic land conservation and management. [274 KB PDF]
  • GIS Data Mapping (Overwater Structures)—  In cooperation with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project, DNR has developed three GIS data layers (marine, lakes, and rivers) quantifying overwater structures either partially or wholly on state-owned aquatic lands. Each layer is made up of thousands of digitized structures, including docks, marinas, and bridges. [Links to websites]
  • Technical Memorandum: Operational definition of an eelgrass (Zostera marina) bed. Summarizes workgroup discussions and related analysis on establishing criteria for defining the boundaries of an eelgrass bed. The memo also recommends metrics to consider before developing conservation measure with the intent to reduce and avoid impacts to eelgrass beds. (Oct. 19, 2011) [1.9 MB]

Learn more and get involved!
At DNR, transparency is one of our guiding principles. We invite you to learn more about aquatic lands, how DNR manages them, and how the habitat conservation plan would affect them. If you would like to find out more or be notified of opportunities to become involved, contact us at 360-902-1100 or send us an email:

Federal Civil Rights
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, DNR does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. However, should a person wish to file a discrimination complaint, please write to:

USDA, Director
Office of Civil Rights
Room 326-W, Whitten Building
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington D.C. 20250-9410
or call 202.720.5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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Lalena Amiotte
DNR's Aquatic Lands HCP Team Lead

Scott Anderson
NOAA Fisheries

Tim Romanski
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


 Related Links

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordination