Everyone talks about reducing governmental waste and environmental regulation. Well, here’s a way to do both at once. Fix the environmental permitting process for replacing fish-barrier culverts so it is simple and cheap. How can anyone justify significant environmental review for replacing road culverts that block fish passsage? What else is there to know other than the existing culvert is a barrier? And no matter what the environmental impacts from performing the culvert replacement, including the need to fill small areas of wetland or stream habitat, by definition, the compensation of opening up new spawning habitat should be complete mitigation for any and all impacts.
You don’t have to measure anything to determine any of this; it’s completely self-evident to even the untrained eye. First, assign a single agency to handle all fish-barrier culvert replacements. Then create a programmatic permit for the action that is pre-issued if the sole purpose of the project is to remove an existing fish barrier. Require only construction drawings and a location map for environmental review information — no delineation, rating or typing or reports or paperwork to fill out for review — a reply for permit authorization would not be necessary. This programmatic environmental permit would encompass all 404, 401, HPA, SMP, GMA and SEPA requirements, and would generate cost-savings equal to that of processing these permits. How much time and money needs to be spent on describing a blockage before you make the decision to remove it from an artery of Earth?