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197-11-799  <<  197-11-800 >>   197-11-810

WAC 197-11-800

Agency filings affecting this section

Categorical exemptions.

The proposed actions contained in Part Nine are categorically exempt from threshold determination and EIS requirements, subject to the rules and limitations on categorical exemptions contained in WAC 197-11-305.
Note:
The statutory exemptions contained in chapter 43.21C RCW are not included in Part Nine. Chapter 43.21C RCW should be reviewed in determining whether a proposed action not listed as categorically exempt in Part Nine is exempt by statute from threshold determination and EIS requirements.
(1) Minor new construction - Flexible thresholds.
(a) The exemptions in this subsection apply to all licenses required to undertake the construction in question. To be exempt under this subsection, the project must be equal to or smaller than the exempt level. For a specific proposal, the exempt level in (b) of this subsection shall control, unless the city/county in which the project is located establishes an exempt level under (c) of this subsection. If the proposal is located in more than one city/county, the lower of the agencies' adopted levels shall control, regardless of which agency is the lead agency. The exemptions in this subsection apply except when the project:
(i) Is undertaken wholly or partly on lands covered by water;
(ii) Requires a license governing discharges to water that is not exempt under RCW 43.21C.0383;
(iii) Requires a license governing emissions to air that is not exempt under RCW 43.21C.0381 or WAC 197-11-800 (7) or (8); or
(iv) Requires a land use decision that is not exempt under WAC 197-11-800(6).
(b) The following types of construction shall be exempt:
(i) The construction or location of four detached single family residential units.
(ii) The construction or location of four multifamily residential units.
(iii) The construction of a barn, loafing shed, farm equipment storage building, produce storage or packing structure, or similar agricultural structure, covering 10,000 square feet, and to be used only by the property owner or his or her agent in the conduct of farming the property. This exemption shall not apply to feed lots.
(iv) The construction of an office, school, commercial, recreational, service or storage building with 4,000 square feet of gross floor area, and with associated parking facilities designed for twenty automobiles. This exemption includes parking lots for twenty or fewer automobiles not associated with a structure.
(v) Any fill or excavation of 100 cubic yards throughout the total lifetime of the fill or excavation and any excavation, fill or grading necessary for an exempt project in (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) of this subsection shall be exempt.
(c) Cities, towns or counties may raise the exempt levels up to the maximum specified in (d) of this subsection by implementing ordinance or resolution. Such levels shall be specified in the agency's SEPA procedures (WAC 197-11-904). Separate maximum optional thresholds are established in (d) of this subsection applying to both incorporated areas and unincorporated urban growth areas in fully planning jurisdictions under RCW 36.70A.040; other unincorporated areas in fully planning counties; and jurisdictions in all other counties. Agencies may adopt the maximum level or a level between the minimum and maximum level. An agency may adopt a system of several exempt levels, such as different levels for different geographic areas, and mixed use projects.
At a minimum, the following process shall be met in order to raise the exempt levels.
(i) Documentation that the requirements for environmental analysis, protection and mitigation for impacts to elements of the environment (listed in WAC 197-11-444) have been adequately addressed for the development exempted. The requirements may be addressed in specific adopted development regulations, and applicable state and federal regulations.
(ii) Description in the findings or other appropriate section of the adopting ordinance or resolution of the locally established notice and comment opportunities for the public, affected tribes, and agencies regarding permitting of development projects included in these increased exemption levels.
(iii) Before adopting the ordinance or resolution containing the proposed new exemption levels, the agency shall provide a minimum of sixty days notice to affected tribes, agencies with expertise, affected jurisdictions, the department of ecology, and the public and provide an opportunity for comment.
(iv) The city, town, or county must document how specific adopted development regulations and applicable state and federal laws provide adequate protections for cultural and historic resources when exemption levels are raised. The requirements for notice and opportunity to comment for the public, affected tribes, and agencies in (c)(i) and (ii) of this subsection and the requirements for protection and mitigation in (c)(i) of this subsection must be specifically documented. The local ordinance or resolution shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
• Use of available data and other project review tools regarding known and likely cultural and historic resources, such as inventories and predictive models provided by the Washington department of archaeology and historic preservation, other agencies, and tribal governments.
• Planning and permitting processes that ensure compliance with applicable laws including chapters 27.44, 27.53, 68.50, and 68.60 RCW.
• Local development regulations that include at minimum preproject cultural resource review where warranted, and standard inadvertent discovery language (SIDL) for all projects.
(d) The maximum exemption levels applicable to (c) of this subsection are:
 
Fully planning GMA counties
All other counties
Project types
Incorporated and unincorporated UGA
Other unincorporated areas
Incorporated and unincorporated areas
Single family residential
30 units
20 units
20 units
Multifamily residential
60 units
25 units
25 units
Barn, loafing shed, farm equipment storage, produce storage or packing structure
40,000 square feet
40,000 square feet
40,000 square feet
Office, school, commercial, recreational, service, storage building, parking facilities
30,000 square feet and 90 parking spaces
12,000 square feet and 40 parking spaces
12,000 square feet and 40 parking spaces
Fill or excavation
1,000 cubic yards
1,000 cubic yards
1,000 cubic yards
(2) Other minor new construction.
(a) The exemptions in this subsection apply to all licenses required to undertake the following types of proposals except when the project:
(i) Is undertaken wholly or partly on lands covered by water;
(ii) Requires a license governing discharges to water that is not exempt under RCW 43.21C.0383;
(iii) Requires a license governing emissions to air that is not exempt under RCW 43.21C.0381 or WAC 197-11-800 (7) or (8); or
(iv) Requires a land use decision that is not exempt under WAC 197-11-800(6).
(b) The construction or designation of bus stops, loading zones, shelters, access facilities and pull-out lanes for taxicabs, transit and school vehicles.
(c) The construction and/or installation of commercial on-premise signs, and public signs and signals.
(d) The construction or installation of minor road and street improvements by any agency or private party that include the following:
(i) Safety structures and equipment: Such as pavement marking, freeway surveillance and control systems, railroad protective devices (not including grade-separated crossings), grooving, glare screen, safety barriers, energy attenuators;
(ii) Transportation corridor landscaping (including the application of state of Washington approved herbicides by licensed personnel for right of way weed control as long as this is not within watersheds controlled for the purpose of drinking water quality in accordance with WAC 248-54-660);
(iii) Temporary traffic controls and detours;
(iv) Correction of substandard curves and intersections within existing rights of way, widening of a highway by less than a single lane width where capacity is not significantly increased and no new right of way is required;
(v) Adding auxiliary lanes for localized purposes, (weaving, climbing, speed change, etc.), where capacity is not significantly increased and no new right of way is required;
(vi) Channelization and elimination of sight restrictions at intersections, street lighting, guard rails and barricade installation;
(vii) Installation of catch basins and culverts for the purposes of road and street improvements;
(viii) Reconstruction of existing roadbed (existing curb-to-curb in urban locations), including adding or widening of shoulders where capacity is not increased and no new right of way is required;
(ix) Addition of bicycle lanes, paths and facilities, and pedestrian walks and paths, but not including additional automobile lanes.
(e) Grading, excavating, filling, septic tank installations, and landscaping necessary for any building or facility exempted by subsections (1) and (2) of this section, as well as fencing and the construction of small structures and minor facilities accessory thereto.
(f) Additions or modifications to or replacement of any building or facility exempted by subsections (1) and (2) of this section when such addition, modification or replacement will not change the character of the building or facility in a way that would remove it from an exempt class.
(g) The demolition of any structure or facility, the construction of which would be exempted by subsections (1) and (2) of this section, except for structures or facilities with recognized historical significance such as listing in a historic register.
(h) The installation or removal of impervious underground or above-ground tanks, having a total capacity of 10,000 gallons or less except on agricultural and industrial lands. On agricultural and industrial lands, the installation or removal of impervious underground or above-ground tanks, having a total capacity of 60,000 gallons or less.
(i) The vacation of streets or roads.
(j) The installation of hydrological measuring devices, regardless of whether or not on lands covered by water.
(k) The installation of any property, boundary or survey marker, other than fences, regardless of whether or not on lands covered by water.
(l) The installation of accessory solar energy generation equipment on or attached to existing structures and facilities whereby the existing footprint and size of the building is not increased.
(3) Repair, remodeling and maintenance activities. The following activities shall be categorically exempt: The repair, remodeling, maintenance, or minor alteration of existing private or public structures, facilities or equipment, including utilities, recreation, and transportation facilities involving no material expansions or changes in use beyond that previously existing; except that, where undertaken wholly or in part on lands covered by water, only minor repair or replacement of structures may be exempt (examples include repair or replacement of piling, ramps, floats, or mooring buoys, or minor repair, alteration, or maintenance of docks). The following maintenance activities shall not be considered exempt under this subsection:
(a) Dredging of over fifty cubic yards of material;
(b) Reconstruction or maintenance of groins and similar shoreline protection structures;
(c) Replacement of utility cables that must be buried under the surface of the bedlands; or
(d) Repair/rebuilding of major dams, dikes, and reservoirs shall also not be considered exempt under this subsection.
(4) Water rights. Appropriations of one cubic foot per second or less of surface water, or of 2,250 gallons per minute or less of groundwater, for any purpose. The exemption covering not only the permit to appropriate water, but also any hydraulics permit, shoreline permit or building permit required for a normal diversion or intake structure, well and pumphouse reasonably necessary to accomplish the exempted appropriation, and including any activities relating to construction of a distribution system solely for any exempted appropriation.
(5) Purchase or sale of real property. The following real property transactions by an agency shall be exempt:
(a) The purchase or acquisition of any right to real property.
(b) The sale, transfer or exchange of any publicly owned real property, but only if the property is not subject to a specifically designated and authorized public use established by the public landowner and used by the public for that purpose.
(c) Leasing, granting an easement for, or otherwise authorizing the use of real property when the property use will remain essentially the same as the existing use for the term of the agreement, or when the use under the lease, easement or other authorization is otherwise exempted by this chapter.
(6) Land use decisions. The following land use decisions shall be exempt:
(a) Land use decisions for exempt projects, except that rezones must comply with (c) of this subsection.
(b) Other land use decisions not qualified for exemption under subsection (a) (such as a home occupation or change of use) are exempt provided:
(i) The authorized activities will be conducted within an existing building or facility qualifying for exemption under WAC 197-11-800 (1) and (2); and
(ii) The activities will not change the character of the building or facility in a way that would remove it from an exempt class.
(c) Where an exempt project requires a rezone, the rezone is exempt only if:
(i) The project is in an urban growth area in a city or county planning under RCW 36.70A.040;
(ii) The proposed rezone is consistent with and does not require an amendment to the comprehensive plan; and
(iii) The applicable comprehensive plan was previously subjected to environmental review and analysis through an EIS under the requirements of this chapter prior to adoption; and the EIS adequately addressed the environmental impacts of the rezone.
(d) Except upon lands covered by water, the approval of short plats or short subdivisions pursuant to the procedures required by RCW 58.17.060, and short plats or short subdivisions within the original short subdivision boundaries provided the cumulative divisions do not exceed the total lots allowed to be created under RCW 58.17.020. This exemption includes binding site plans authorized by RCW 58.17.035 up to the same number of lots allowed by the jurisdiction as a short subdivision.
(e) Granting of variance based on special circumstances, not including economic hardship, applicable to the subject property, such as size, shape, topography, location or surroundings and not resulting in any change in land use or density.
(f) Alteration of property lines as authorized by RCW 58.17.040(6).
(7) Open burning. Opening burning and the issuance of any license for open burning shall be exempt. The adoption of plans, programs, objectives or regulations by any agency incorporating general standards respecting open burning shall not be exempt.
(8) Clean Air Act. The granting of variances under RCW 70.94.181 extending applicable air pollution control requirements for one year or less shall be exempt.
(9) Water quality certifications. The granting or denial of water quality certifications under the Federal Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act amendments of 1972, 33 U.S.C. 1341) shall be exempt.
(10) Activities of the state legislature. All actions of the state legislature are exempted.
(11) Judicial activity. The following shall be exempt:
(a) All adjudicatory actions of the judicial branch.
(b) Any quasi-judicial action of any agency if such action consists of the review of a prior administrative or legislative decision. Decisions resulting from contested cases or other hearing processes conducted prior to the first decision on a proposal or upon any application for a rezone, conditional use permit or other similar permit not otherwise exempted by this chapter, are not exempted by this subsection.
(12) Enforcement and inspections. The following enforcement and inspection activities shall be exempt:
(a) All actions, including administrative orders and penalties, undertaken to enforce a statute, regulation, ordinance, resolution or prior decision. No license shall be considered exempt by virtue of this subsection; nor shall the adoption of any ordinance, regulation or resolution be considered exempt by virtue of this subsection.
(b) All inspections conducted by an agency of either private or public property for any purpose.
(c) All activities of fire departments and law enforcement agencies except physical construction activity.
(d) Any action undertaken by an agency to abate a nuisance or to abate, remove or otherwise cure any hazard to public health or safety. The application of pesticides and chemicals is not exempted by this subsection but may be exempted elsewhere in these guidelines. No license or adoption of any ordinance, regulation or resolution shall be considered exempt by virtue of this subsection.
(e) Any suspension or revocation of a license for any purpose.
(13) Business and other regulatory licenses. The following business and other regulatory licenses are exempt:
(a) All licenses to undertake an occupation, trade or profession.
(b) All licenses required under electrical, fire, plumbing, heating, mechanical, and safety codes and regulations, but not including building permits.
(c) All licenses to operate or engage in amusement devices and rides and entertainment activities including, but not limited to, cabarets, carnivals, circuses and other traveling shows, dances, music machines, golf courses, and theaters, including approval of the use of public facilities for temporary civic celebrations, but not including licenses or permits required for permanent construction of any of the above.
(d) All licenses to operate or engage in charitable or retail sales and service activities including, but not limited to, peddlers, solicitors, second hand shops, pawnbrokers, vehicle and housing rental agencies, tobacco sellers, close out and special sales, fireworks, massage parlors, public garages and parking lots, and used automobile dealers.
(e) All licenses for private security services including, but not limited to, detective agencies, merchant and/or residential patrol agencies, burglar and/or fire alarm dealers, guard dogs, locksmiths, and bail bond services.
(f) All licenses for vehicles for-hire and other vehicle related activities including, but not limited to, taxicabs, ambulances, and tow trucks: Provided, That regulation of common carriers by the utilities and transportation commission shall not be considered exempt under this subsection.
(g) All licenses for food or drink services, sales, and distribution including, but not limited to, restaurants, liquor, and meat.
(h) All animal control licenses including, but not limited to, pets, kennels, and pet shops. Establishment or construction of such a facility shall not be considered exempt by this subsection.
(i) The renewal or reissuance of a license regulating any present activity or structure so long as no material changes are involved.
(14) Activities of agencies. The following administrative, fiscal and personnel activities of agencies shall be exempt:
(a) The procurement and distribution of general supplies, equipment and services authorized or necessitated by previously approved functions or programs.
(b) The assessment and collection of taxes.
(c) The adoption of all budgets and agency requests for appropriation: Provided, That if such adoption includes a final agency decision to undertake a major action, that portion of the budget is not exempted by this subsection.
(d) The borrowing of funds, issuance of bonds, or applying for a grant and related financing agreements and approvals.
(e) The review and payment of vouchers and claims.
(f) The establishment and collection of liens and service billings.
(g) All personnel actions, including hiring, terminations, appointments, promotions, allocations of positions, and expansions or reductions in force.
(h) All agency organization, reorganization, internal operational planning or coordination of plans or functions.
(i) Adoptions or approvals of utility, transportation and solid waste disposal rates.
(j) The activities of school districts pursuant to desegregation plans or programs; however, construction of real property transactions or the adoption of any policy, plan or program for such construction of real property transaction shall not be considered exempt under this subsection.
(k) Classification of land for current use taxation under chapter 84.34 RCW, and classification and grading of forest land under chapter 84.33 RCW.
(15) Financial assistance grants. The approval of grants or loans by one agency to another shall be exempt, although an agency may at its option require compliance with SEPA prior to making a grant or loan for design or construction of a project. This exemption includes agencies taking nonproject actions that are necessary to apply for federal or other financial assistance.
(16) Local improvement districts and special purpose districts. The formation of local improvement districts and special purpose districts, unless such formation constitutes a final agency decision to undertake construction of a structure or facility not exempted under WAC 197-11-800 and 197-11-880. A special district or special purpose district is a local government entity designated by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and is not a city, town, township, or county.
(17) Information collection and research. Basic data collection, research, resource evaluation, requests for proposals (RFPs), and the conceptual planning of proposals shall be exempt. These may be strictly for information-gathering, or as part of a study leading to a proposal that has not yet been approved, adopted or funded; this exemption does not include any agency action that commits the agency to proceed with such a proposal. (Also see WAC 197-11-070.)
(18) Acceptance of filings. The acceptance by an agency of any document or thing required or authorized by law to be filed with the agency and for which the agency has no discretionary power to refuse acceptance shall be exempt. No license shall be considered exempt by virtue of this subsection.
(19) Procedural actions. The proposal, amendment or adoption of legislation, rules, regulations, resolutions or ordinances, or of any plan or program shall be exempt if they are:
(a) Relating solely to governmental procedures, and containing no substantive standards respecting use or modification of the environment.
(b) Text amendments resulting in no substantive changes respecting use or modification of the environment.
(c) Agency SEPA procedures.
(20) Reserved.
(21) Adoption of noise ordinances. The adoption by counties/cities of resolutions, ordinances, rules or regulations concerned with the control of noise which do not differ from regulations adopted by the department of ecology under chapter 70.107 RCW. When a county/city proposes a noise resolution, ordinance, rule or regulation, a portion of which differs from the applicable state regulations, SEPA compliance may be limited to those items which differ from state regulations.
(22) Review and comment actions. Any activity where one agency reviews or comments upon the actions of another agency or another department within an agency shall be exempt.
(23) Utilities. The utility-related actions listed below shall be exempt, except for installation, construction, or alteration on lands covered by water. The exemption includes installation and construction, relocation when required by other governmental bodies, repair, replacement, maintenance, operation or alteration that does not change the action from an exempt class.
(a) All communications lines, including cable TV, but not including communication towers or relay stations.
(b) All storm water, water and sewer facilities, lines, equipment, hookups or appurtenances including, utilizing or related to lines twelve inches or less in diameter.
(c) All electric facilities, lines, equipment or appurtenances, not including substations, with an associated voltage of 55,000 volts or less; the overbuilding of existing distribution lines (55,000 volts or less) with transmission lines (up to and including 115,000 volts); within existing rights of way or developed utility corridors, all electric facilities, lines, equipment or appurtenances, not including substations, with an associated voltage of 115,000 volts or less; and the undergrounding of all electric facilities, lines, equipment or appurtenances.
(d) All natural gas distribution (as opposed to transmission) lines and necessary appurtenant facilities and hookups.
(e) All developments within the confines of any existing electric substation, reservoir, pump station vault, pipe, or well: Additional appropriations of water are not exempted by this subsection.
(f) Periodic use of chemical or mechanical means to maintain a utility or transportation right of way in its design condition: Provided, the chemicals used are approved by Washington state and applied by licensed personnel. This exemption shall not apply to the use of chemicals within watersheds that are controlled for the purpose of drinking water quality in accordance with WAC 248-54-660.
(g) All grants of rights of way by agencies to utilities for use for distribution (as opposed to transmission) purposes.
(h) All grants of franchises by agencies to utilities.
(i) All disposals of rights of way by utilities.
(24) Natural resources management. In addition to the other exemptions contained in this section, the following natural resources management activities shall be exempt:
(a) Issuance of new grazing leases covering a section of land or less; and issuance of all grazing leases for land that has been subject to a grazing lease within the previous ten years.
(b) Licenses or approvals to remove firewood.
(c) Issuance of agricultural leases covering one hundred sixty contiguous acres or less.
(d) Issuance of leases for Christmas tree harvesting or brush picking.
(e) Issuance of leases for school sites.
(f) Issuance of leases for, and placement of, mooring buoys designed to serve pleasure craft.
(g) Development of recreational sites not specifically designed for all-terrain vehicles and not including more than twelve campsites.
(h) Periodic use of chemical or mechanical means to maintain public park and recreational land: Provided, That chemicals used are approved by the Washington state department of agriculture and applied by licensed personnel. This exemption shall not apply to the use of chemicals within watersheds that are controlled for the purpose of drinking water quality in accordance with WAC 248-54-660.
(i) Issuance of rights of way, easements and use permits to use existing roads in nonresidential areas.
(j) Establishment of natural area preserves to be used for scientific research and education and for the protection of rare flora and fauna, under the procedures of chapter 79.70 RCW.
(25) Wireless service facilities.
(a) The siting of wireless service facilities are exempt if:
(i) The collocation of new equipment, removal of equipment, or replacement of existing equipment on existing or replacement structures that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such structures; or
(ii) The siting project involves constructing a wireless service tower less than sixty feet in height that is located in a commercial, industrial, manufacturing, forest, or agricultural zone.
(b) For the purposes of this subsection:
(i) " Wireless services" means wireless data and telecommunications services, including commercial mobile services, commercial mobile data services, unlicensed wireless services, and common carrier wireless exchange access services, as defined by federal laws and regulations.
(ii) "Wireless service facilities" means facilities for the provision of wireless services.
(iii) "Collocation" means the mounting or installation of equipment on an existing tower, building, structure for the purposes of either transmitting or receiving, or both, radio frequency signals for communication purposes.
(iv) "Existing structure" means any existing tower, pole, building, or other structure capable of supporting wireless service facilities.
(v) "Substantially change the physical dimensions" means:
(A) The mounting of equipment on a structure that would increase the height of the structure by more than ten percent, or twenty feet, whichever is greater; or
(B) The mounting of equipment that would involve adding an appurtenance to the body of the structure that would protrude from the edge of the structure more than twenty feet, or more than the width of the structure at the level of the appurtenance, whichever it greater.
(c) This exemption does not apply to projects within a critical area designated under GMA (RCW 36.70A.060).
(26) The following Washington department of transportation projects and activities shall be exempt: The repair, reconstruction, restoration, retrofitting, or replacement of any road, highway, bridge, tunnel, or transit facility (such as a ferry dock or bus transfer station), including ancillary transportation facilities (such as pedestrian/bicycle paths and bike lanes), that is in operation, as long as the action:
(a) Occurs within the existing right of way and in a manner that substantially conforms to the preexisting design, function, and location as the original except to meet current engineering standards or environmental permit requirements; and
(b) The action does not result in addition of automobile lanes, a change in capacity, or a change in functional use of the facility.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 43.21C.110 and 43.21C.100 [43.21C.170]. WSR 14-09-026 (Order 13-01), § 197-11-800, filed 4/9/14, effective 5/10/14. Statutory Authority: RCW 43.21C.110. WSR 13-02-065 (Order 12-01), § 197-11-800, filed 12/28/12, effective 1/28/13. Statutory Authority: RCW 43.21A.090, chapter 43.21C RCW, RCW 43.21C.035, 43.21C.037, 43.21C.038, 43.21C.0381, 43.21C.0382, 43.21C.0383, 43.21C.110, 43.21C.222. WSR 03-16-067 (Order 02-12), § 197-11-800, filed 8/1/03, effective 9/1/03. Statutory Authority: 1995 c 347 (ESHB 1724) and RCW 43.21C.110. WSR 97-21-030 (Order 95-16), § 197-11-800, filed 10/10/97, effective 11/10/97. Statutory Authority: RCW 43.21C.110. WSR 84-05-020 (Order DE 83-39), § 197-11-800, filed 2/10/84, effective 4/4/84.]