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STREAMLINING THE REVIEW OF ROUTINE TRANSPORTATION

  • Author(s): Wood, Barbara
  • et al.
Abstract

The 1999 listing of Puget Sound (PS) chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Washington State was the first time a listing of a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended, affected a metropolitan area. Since that time, transportation officials, as well as other entities, have had to retool their processes for environmental permit acquisition because of the addition level of review requirements specified under ESA. The initial short-term solution for both action and regulatory agencies was to hire more staff. However, despite the additional staff at Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), project review for ESA consultations under Section 7 remains a very complicated, and thus prolonged process. Therefore, in 1999, WSDOT submitted a programmatic biological assessment (PBA) for a full programmatic consultation with NOAA Fisheries. The objective of the PBA was to reduce the number of routine transportation projects that require an individual biological assessment (BA) to be written by the action agency and then reviewed by NOAA Fisheries. WSDOT and NOAA Fisheries have developed a defined set of specific standard conditions and conservation measures. The PBA covering nine transportation programs conducted within the Washington State was completed in 2002. The completion of the PBA consultation provides WSDOT certainty when designing transportation infrastructure, while fulfilling their requirements under ESA. Standard conditions and conservation measures included in the PBA consultation provide a relatively simple approach that, when followed, will result in a transportation project that can be constructed in a timely manner, and in many cases improve the baseline environment for ESA listed and candidate salmonid species.

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