Phil Hess, WFFA Representative, Small Forest Landowner Office Advisory Committee

If you’re planning on harvesting your timber, you know that you’ll need to complete and receive a Forest Practices Application (FPA) before any road building or harvest activities can occur. But you may not be aware that landowners are also required to verify their stream’s water type as part of the application process.

Formally known as “water type” (WAC 222-16-031), there are four classifications that you need to be aware of: Type S (shorelines of the state per RCW 90.58.030), Type F (fish bearing), Type Np (non-fish bearing, perennial) and Type Ns (non-fish bearing, seasonal). Because stream flow and size decrease as you move upstream to the headwaters, streams in your ownership may change from one type to another, so in the FPA you’ll also need to define where the break between one type and another occurs.

So how do you get started? The first step is to locate your property or harvest unit on the Forest Practices Application Review System (FPARS) viewer using Township, Range, and Section. Waters on the Activity Map are labeled with an S (shoreline), F (fish bearing), N (non-fish bearing stream), or U (unknown). Regardless of what the Activity map says, landowners are responsible for verifying the water types on their property.

If you have complicated water typing issues such as a channel migration zone or a connected wetland you can request a pre-application review of your FPA and assistance from the Forest Practices Forester in your area.

Determining where the break is between water types is a critical piece of your planning because each water type has a different regulatory buffer or riparian management zone (RMZ) and each buffer has a different width. Type F RMZs have 3 components: a core zone adjacent to the water where no harvest is allowed, and an inner and outer zone where harvest is limited. The width of each Type F stream RMZ varies by stream width, site productivity, timber habitat type, and whether you are in eastern or western Washington. Type N streams can be either Np (Non-Fish perennial) or Ns (Non-fish seasonal). Type Np streams have a single RMZ zone, with potential harvest options based on, stream width, site productivity, timber habitat type, and whether you are in eastern or western Washington. Type Ns streams only have a 30-foot Equipment Limitation Zone (ELZ) and there are no cutting restrictions.

It’s very important that you to walk your streams during the driest time of the year so you can easily tell where the uppermost surface water begins to appear and is connected to a well-defined channel. Type Np streams begin at the uppermost point of perennial flow (UMPPF), also called the perennial initiation point (PIP). If the well-defined channel fades out without a UMPPF the stream is likely an Ns. A word of caution though; make sure you walk the entire length of the stream to ensure that flow does not begin again somewhere along the above ground channel reach! Identify where the breaks occur and locate them on the ground by driving in a permanent metal post, marking adjacent trees with paint or an aluminum tag/nail, and record the location with a handheld GPS unit if you have one. The location of the break/s should also be marked on your Activity Map. Detailed instruction for water typing can be found in the FPA instructions on pages 22 to 23 (westside) and 23 to 24 (eastside). Note that in these instructions, you could have a type F if the channel meets the physical characteristics even if you don’t have a UMPPF.

If your water typing and break determination differs from that on the Activity Map, submit a Water Type Modification (WTM) Form. Doing so triggers an on-site review by your DNR Forest Practices Forester, and if she/he agrees, will lead to a permanent change in the stream water type. If you don’t submit the WTM form, then any change in stream type that you submit will only be valid for the current FPA.

Even if harvest scheduling is not in your immediate plans, it is recommended you verify and correct the water typing as currently shown on the DNR Activity Maps, determine/identify water type breaks and complete/submit the WTM form.  Again, do this at the driest time of the year.  Having this step completed will simplify any future FPA for you and the family. Remember that the 15 year Long-term Application may be a good alternative for you.