For FHWA-funded projects, H&LP and FHWA are the only entities that have the authority to initiate Section 7 consultation with the Services:
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS)
- National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
H&LP can provide assistance in the development of local-agency ESA materials.
New FHWA Indirect Effects Guidance for Biological Assessments
On June 17, 2009, the Federal Highway Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and WSDOT signed a memorandum committing the four agencies to using a unified approach for assessing the indirect effects relationship between transportation projects and land-use development. This new guidance was developed to provide a common approach for analyzing and reviewing the effects of indirect effects in Biological Assessments (BA) prepared for Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations. The intent of the new guidance is to reduce ESA consultation timelines by setting clear and consistent guidance on how to present project information in a BA.
To provide a transition period, H&LP staff negotiated a six-month "grandfather period," during which local agencies are recommended but not be required to use the new indirect effects guidance in BAs. However, all local-agency BAs that are submitted to NMFS and USFWS to initiate consultation after December 17, 2009 will be required to use the new guidance. This new indirect effects guidance is available online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Environment/Biology/BA/default.htm#IndirectEffects.
WSDOT will be offering training on the new indirect effects guidance as a part of its Biological Assessment Training Course scheduled for October 27-30 in Lacey. Persons interested in taking the class, which is open to consultants and local agency staff that write BAs, can register online through the H&LP's LTAP center at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/localprograms/ltap/.
Steps in the Section 7 Consultations Process
FHWA and H&LP will coordinate all communications with the Services and will represent the interests of the local agency. Local agencies cannot initiate consultations with the Services.
To initiate a Section 7 Consultation:
- Biological Assessment (BA) is prepared by the local agency
Tip: The WSDOT BA Outline (.doc 279kb)is recommended by H&LP for local agencies to use when preparing ESA documents. This outline was developed alongside the Services to provide a standard format for BAs.
- Next, the local agency contacts the Regional Local Programs Engineer
- H&LP then coordinates a review by a WSDOT ESA biologist. This review may take up to 30 days.
- Local agency makes the recommended edits
- BA is sent back to H&LP
- H&LP or FHWA submits the BA to the Services for consultation.
- The Services assigns the project to a WSDOT Transportation Liaison to coordinate the consultation and to prepare either a Letter of Concurrence (LOC) or a Biological Opinion (BO).
Tool for Biological Assessment Reviews
H&LP encourages local agencies to use FHWA's Web-based ESA Consultation Tool, which facilitates expedited internal and external reviews of BAs. This new tool establishes a website for each project, and permits "team members" to review and, in some cases, edit drafts of the BA. It also permits H&LP and FHWA to submit BAs electronically to the Services.
More ESA Resources