Ecology deploys improvements to the SEPA reporting system
The State Environmental Policy Act, also known as SEPA, helps identify the potential environmental effects of government plans and decisions in Washington. SEPA requires “lead agencies” – typically city and county governments and other local agencies – to collect and submit information about their environmental reviews to Ecology.
Each year, we receive more than 6,000 SEPA registrations. To provide greater transparency on government environmental reviews and decisions, information is published in the SEPA Registry, an online database that lists all SEPA information for all projects underway in Washington since 2000.
Streamline the reporting process
As part of the SEPA declaration process for many years, lead agencies sent us their SEPA documents and information, and our staff then entered the information into the SEPA register. We have created a new online tool to streamline this process.
On July 20, 2021, we launched a new online web portal giving SEPA lead agencies the ability to enter SEPA registrations and documents directly into the SEPA register. Once the submissions have been reviewed by our staff, they are published in the registry.
Although lead agencies will no longer send their files to Ecology by mail or email, the public will still be able to access all SEPA files and documents published on the SEPA register. By simplifying the process of uploading SEPA documents, the new system offers lead agencies the ability to enter SEPA registrations according to a schedule that suits them best, while ensuring public transparency.
Focus on technical assistance and training
As part of the deployment of the new system, a small number of users have been selected to test and use the system in real time for ongoing projects in their communities. We used the feedback from these early adopters to finalize the portal and prepare it for statewide use.
In addition to giving more flexibility to lead agencies, the new system will give our staff more time to focus on reviewing submitted documents and providing technical assistance and training to lead agencies. In addition, lead agencies will have more certainty about the process through email alerts when their registrations are received and uploaded to the SEPA register.
During the transition period, we are helping lead agencies learn how to use our new web portal system by providing online training and user guides. We are excited to share these improvements and continue to look for ways to help lead agencies work throughout the SEPA process.