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Below are selected “Ask MRSC” inquiries we have received from local governments throughout Washington State related to environmental issues. Click on any question to see the answer.

These questions are for educational purposes only. All questions and answers have been edited and adapted for posting to the MRSC website, and all identifying information, including the inquirer’s name and agency name, has been removed.

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Does an environmental impact statement (EIS) expire?
Reviewed: April 2016

There is no expiration period for an EIS. However, there likely are expiration periods for project permit applications for which an EIS was prepared; a new application for a previously proposed but not acted upon project triggers new environmental review. DOE's SEPA Handbook (rev. 2004), addresses environmental review in this circumstance:

SEPA documents do not have expiration dates. After SEPA is completed, if a proposal is delayed so that new permits must be applied for, environmental review may be limited to verifying that there is no new information, regulatory changes, or changes to the proposal that would require additional review. (This is true even if the applicant has changed.) As long as there are no changes to be addressed, no additional paperwork is required and agencies may proceed with permit decisions.

See WAC 197-11-600 , which addresses the use of existing environmental documents.

(Link to this question)

Can a school district act as a lead agency for SEPA compliance?
Reviewed: September 2015

Yes, a school district can (actually, should) act as the lead agency regarding a project it proposes. WAC 197-11-926(1) states in part:

When an agency initiates a proposal, it is the lead agency for that proposal. If two or more agencies share in the implementation of a proposal, the agencies shall by agreement determine which agency will be the lead agency.

"Agency" is defined in WAC 197-11-714(1) as follows:

"Agency" means any state or local governmental body, board, commission, department, or officer authorized to make law, hear contested cases, or otherwise take the actions stated in WAC 197-11-704, except the judiciary and state legislature. An agency is any state agency ( WAC 197-11-926) or local agency ( WAC 197-11-762).

"Local agency" under WAC 197-11-762, referenced above in WAC 197-11-714(1), is defined as "any political subdivision, regional governmental unit, district, municipal or public corporation, including cities, towns, and counties and their legislative bodies." (My emphasis.)

Lastly, WAC 197-11-704, also referenced above in WAC 197-11-714(1) (“any . . . local governmental body . . . authorized to . . . otherwise take the actions stated in WAC 197-11-704. . .”) includes within the definition of “project action”:

 . . . agency decisions to:
(i) . . . fund, or undertake any activity that will directly modify the environment, whether the activity will be conducted by the agency, an applicant, or under contract.

(Link to this question)

Is a water line extension project exempt from SEPA?
Reviewed: March 2015

Yes, if the line is 12 inches or less in diameter and the water line does not cross any "lands covered by water." WAC 197-11-800 (23)(b).

(Link to this question)

Is the establishment of a transportation benefit district subject to SEPA?
Reviewed: January 2015

No. The categorical exemption in WAC 197-11-800(16) was amended in May 2014 (WSR 14-09-026) to add "special purpose district," to make the following actions exempt from SEPA (underlined words were added):

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.

Since a transportation benefit district is a type of special purpose district, its establishment is exempt from SEPA review. 

(Link to this question)