Critical Areas

What are Critical Areas?

Critical Areas in Island County are environmentally sensitive natural resources that have been designated for protection and management in accordance with the requirements of our state's Growth Management Act (GMA). Protection and management of these areas is important to the preservation of ecological functions of our natural environment, as well as the protection of the public health, safety and welfare of our community.

Critical Areas & My Development

Step 1 - Field Indicators Worksheet

If you are submitting a development proposal (building permit or land use permit), you need to fill out and submit a completed Field Indicators Worksheet even if there are no known critical areas on your property. The Wetland I.D. Guide contains instructions for completing the Field Indicators Worksheet.

Step 2 - Identify Streams & Wetlands

To learn if Island County has a record of a wetland or stream on or near your property, follow these instructions:

  • Go to IC Geo Map.
  • Once you pull up the map, you can type your parcel number or address into the search bar.
  • Then click the layers button at the bottom left of your screen.
  • Check the box next to critical areas, and click the plus sign to expand the options below.
  • Turn on the appropriate layers by clicking the boxes next to wetlands, streams regulatory, and streams cartographic.
  • If your property is affected by a wetland, stream, wetland buffer, or stream buffer, complete the appropriate instructions listed in steps 3 and 4.
  • Please note, not all wetlands and streams are mapped by Island County, and absence of data on IC Geo Map does not preclude critical areas regulatory requirements.

Step 3 - Identify Other Critical Areas

If you are submitting a development proposal, you need to address all critical areas found on your parcel. View Island County's Critical Area Maps here to determine if other known critical areas are present on your property which include:

  • Other Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCAs):*
  • Habitats of Local Importance
  • Washington Natural Heritage Program Sites
  • Geologically Hazardous Areas
  • Frequently Flooded Areas
  • Critical Aquifer Recharge Area

* Species of local importance habitat and Marine Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (MFWHCAs) are not publicly available. Planning Staff will determine whether your proposal is within the vicinity of these habitats.

Step 4: Environmental Reports

If critical areas are mapped on or near your property, you will need to contact a qualified environmental consultant. Environmental review is required for development in the vicinity of critical areas. Below is a link to qualified environmental consultants who have submitted their qualifications to Island County for inclusion on the list:     

For wetland and/or buffer impact, a Wetland Report and Mitigation Plan is involved. For streams and other fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas (FWHCAs), a Biological Site Assessment (BSA) is required. BSA guidance is available here. Development may involve SEPA review and completing a SEPA checklist.

If critical areas are mapped nearby, and your proposal falls outside critical areas and associated buffers, a Letter of Determination from an environmental consultant may be appropriate. Below is a link to an example Letter of Determination, and an explanation of when a Letter of Determination is acceptable. The Island County Critical Areas Planner can help determine which Environmental Reports are needed for your proposal.

Step 5 - Island County Critical Areas Permits

If your project impacts critical areas and their buffers, you will need to obtain the relevant permit and submit the specific required report with your permit application. Impacts to wetlands and associated buffers may require a Type I or Type II Reasonable Use Determination (RUD). Development adjacent or within streams involve a Type II Critical Areas Permitted Use (CPU) application. For information on which permit and report you need to submit, contact the Critical Areas Planner

Step 6 - State & Federal Permit Requirements

State agencies may have permitting requirements for proposals in the vicinity of critical areas.

  • Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations may apply to projects within or adjacent to wetlands and streams. Please see the permitting worksheet below:
  • Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) requires Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) for proposals within waters of the state. Click here for further information about HPA.
  • FEMA requires a Habitat Impact Analysis (HIA) and Flood Development Permits for certain proposals within floodplains. Please see the following worksheet for requirements:
  • Projects within waters of the state and/or federally regulated wetlands may require a Joint Aquatic Resources Application (JARPA), a multi-agency permit process. See the JARPA website for information.
  • Projects impacting non-federally regulated wetlands may require an Administrative Order from the Department of Ecology (to comply with Chapter 90.48 RCW). More info is available here.
  • Proposals adjacent to Bald Eagle habitat require review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Eagle habitat information is confidential, and Planning Staff will work with you to determine requirements.