6890 Policy – State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Compliance

Bellingham Public Schools accepts responsibility, as described by the Washington State Legislature in the State Environmental Policy Act, specifically Chapter 43.21C.

A. Policies and Authority

1. Pursuant to RCW 43.21C.120 and WAC 197-11-902, -904, and -906, the district adopts the following State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) policies and procedures.

2. The SEPA rules, as currently set forth in Chapter 197-11 WAC and as hereafter amended, must be used in conjunction with this policy. The district adopts all sections or subsections of the SEPA rules except for the elections stated within these rules which are consistent with the SEPA rules and the following sections and subsections of the SEPA rules which the district elects not to adopt: WAC 197-11-164, -168, -172, -238, -250, -253, -256, -259, -262, -265, -268, -850, -855, -860, -865, -870, -875, and -918.

B. Additional Definitions

In addition to the definitions contained in WAC 197-11-700 through WAC 197-11-799, when used in this policy the following terms shall have the following meanings, unless the context indicates otherwise:

1. District: “district” means the Bellingham Public Schools, Whatcom County, State of Washington.

2. SEPA Rules: “SEPA Rules” means Chapter 197-11 WAC, adopted by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

C. Substantive Authority and Appeals

1. This section contains rules and policies for SEPA’s substantive authority, such as decisions to mitigate or reject proposals as a result of SEPA. The policies and procedures set forth in this section are supplementary to those in the existing authorization of the district. This part also contains procedures for appealing SEPA determinations to the courts.

2. Any district action on a proposal that is not exempt from SEPA’s procedural requirements may be conditioned or denied under SEPA to mitigate the environmental impacts, subject to the limitations of WAC 197-11-660 and such other applicable laws.

3. The district establishes the following criteria as the basis for exercising authority relative to environmental issues. The district shall use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of state policy, to improve and coordinate plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the state and its citizens may:

a. Fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations;

b. Assure for all people of Washington safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings;

c. Attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences;

d. Preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage;

e. Maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice;

f. Achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life’s amenities; and

g. Enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources.

4. It is the policy of the district that, when undertaking an action involving the exercise of substantive SEPA authority, the district shall consider, as appropriate under the circumstances, the ramifications of such action as to one or more of the preceding factors. The district recognizes that each person has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.

5. The district formally designates and adopts the following plans and policies as policies to be considered by the district, as appropriate and practical under the circumstances, in conjunction with those policies adopted in Section 3.3 above:

a. Bellingham Public Schools’ Capital Facilities Plan

b. City of Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, Land Use and Capital Facilities Elements

c. Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, Land Use and Capital Facilities Elements

6. The district hereby (a) eliminates, pursuant to WAC 197-11-680(2), appeals to its legislative body of any decision by a nonelected official conditioning or denying a proposal under authority of SEPA; and (b) elects, pursuant to WAC 197-11-680(3), not to provide for administrative appeals of determinations relating to SEPA.

D. Critical Areas Review

1. In its actions, the district shall respect “critical areas” and their modified exemption criteria which have been adopted and displayed by local governments pursuant to the Growth Management Act, Chapter 36.70A RCW.

2. Actions which shall be located wholly or partially within a critical area are to be treated no differently than other actions under these guidelines. A threshold determination shall be made for all such actions, and an EIS shall not be automatically required for a proposal merely because it is proposed for location in a critical area.

E. Use of Exemptions

1. To determine whether or not a proposal is exempt, the district shall ascertain the total scope of the proposal and the governmental approvals required.

2. If a proposal includes a series of actions, physically or functionally related to each other, some of which are exempt and some which are not, the proposal is not exempt, and the district must complete a threshold determination.

3. If a proposal includes both exempt and nonexempt actions, exempt actions may be authorized with respect to the proposal prior to compliance with the procedural requirements of these guidelines subject to the following limitations:

a. No nonexempt action shall be authorized prior to compliance with procedural and substantive requirements;

b. No action shall be authorized which shall irrevocably commit the district to approve or authorize a nonexempt action;

c. The district may withhold approval of an exempt action which would lead to modification of the physical environment, when such modifications would serve no purpose if later approval of a nonexempt action is not secured; and

d. The district may withhold approval of exempt actions which would lead to substantial financial expenditures by a private applicant which would serve no purpose if later approval of a nonexempt action is not secured.

4. In determining whether a proposal is exempt from SEPA, the district also adopts and shall apply any flexible thresholds for categorical exemptions or critical area modifications that may be adopted by the city or county in which the proposal is located in accordance with SEPA.

F. Lead Agency Determination and Responsibilities

The district is lead agency for the proposals it initiates and is responsible for compliance with SEPA regulations. The district has adopted SEPA Rules regarding lead agency determinations. Where two or more agencies share in the implementation of the proposal, the district may agree that another department or agency with jurisdiction may serve as lead agency pursuant to WAC 197-11-926. The district is authorized to make agreements as to lead agency status or shared lead agency duties for a proposal as authorized by law.

G. Environmental Checklist and Threshold Determination

1. Except as provided in WAC 197-11-315 the district must complete an environmental checklist (WAC 197-11-960) for any proposal that meets the definition of action (WAC 197-11-704) and is not categorically exempted in WAC 197-11-800 and 880. This checklist will be the basis for the threshold determination.

2. For all proposals for which the district is the lead agency, the responsible official of the district will make the threshold determination pursuant to the criteria and procedures of WAC 197-11-300 through -360.

H. Preparation of Environmental Documents

1.All environmental documents (WAC 197-11-744) required or permitted under the SEPA Rules shall be prepared by the district’s responsible official or his/her designee or a consultant retained by the district.

2. In the event that an environmental document is to be prepared by a consultant, the responsible official will determine that the environmental document is prepared in a responsible manner and with appropriate methodology. The responsible official shall, as appropriate, direct the areas of research and examination to be undertaken, as well as the organization of the resulting document.

3. No matter who participates in the preparation of an environmental document, it must be approved by the responsible official prior to distribution.

I. Public Notice

Whenever public notice is required to be given under the SEPA Rules, the district shall:

1. Post the property where the proposal is located, for site-specific proposals; and

2. Publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, city, or general area where the proposal is located.

J. Designation of Official to Perform Consulted Agency Responsibilities for the District

1.The superintendent or the superintendent’s designee shall be responsible for the preparation of the written comments for the district in response to a consultation request prior to a threshold determination, participation in pre-draft consultation or reviewing a draft EIS.

2. The official designated by the district shall be responsible for compliance by the district with WAC 197-11-400 through -460 wherever the district is consulted agency, and they are authorized to develop operating procedures which shall ensure that responses to consultation requests are prepared in a timely fashion and include data from all appropriate departments of the district.

K. Designation of Responsible Official

For those proposals for which the district is the lead agency, the responsible official shall be the superintendent or their designee. The responsible official shall make the threshold determination, supervise scoping and preparation of any required EIS and perform any other functions assigned to the “lead agency”.

L. Fees

No fee shall be collected by the district for performing its duties as a consulted agency. The district may charge any person for copies of any document prepared pursuant to the requirements of this ordinance and for mailing in a manner provided by Chapter 42.56 RCW.

M. Publication of Notice

The district may publish a notice of action pursuant to RCW 43.21C.080 for any action taken by the district under these policies and procedures to establish a time limit for judicial appeals.

The form of the notice shall be as prescribed by the Department of Ecology and/or substantially in the form and manner set forth in RCW 43.21C.080 and WAC 197-11-990. The notice shall be published by the district pursuant to RCW 43.2lC.080.

N. Severability

If any provision of this resolution or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of this resolution, or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected.

O. Effective Date

These policies and procedures shall become effective on upon adoption by the board of directors.

Approved By: Greg Baker, Superintendent and Camille Diaz Hackler, School Board President
Adopted/Previous Revisions: 06/25/09; 01/10/13
Updated: 03/13/19
Superintendent or Board Approved: Board Approved
Legal References: Content

RCW 43.21C         State Environmental Policy Act

WAC 197-11          State Environmental Policy Act Rules