Critical areas are specifically defined under GMA (RCW 36.70A.030) and include fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, wetlands, frequently flooded areas, geologically hazardous areas, and critical aquifer recharge areas used for potable water.
WETLANDS Wetland’s are areas inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater for at least part of the growing season and support vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. This includes swamps, marshes, bogs and in some instances springs. Potential locations you may find wetland areas are in riparian, agriculture and rangeland’s. FISH AND WILDLIFE HABITAT CONSERVATION AREA’S (FWHCA’s) FWHCAs are land and water that provide habitat for fish and wildlife species. This includes streams and rivers with ESA listed steelhead and riparian, agricultural and range-land areas that support breeding grounds, winter range and corridors for migrating species. These areas carry food, water and shelter. The target species include, steelhead, mule deer, upland game birds and raptors. FWHCA’s are potentially found in-stream, riparian, agriculture, range-land, cliffs and bluff areas. CRITICAL AQUIFER RECHARGE AREAS (CARA’s) CARA’s have a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for drinking water, including vulnerable aquifers that could reduce supply by reducing recharge rates and water availability. This includes areas adjacent to city wells, shallow groundwater areas and areas identified to have connection to aquifers. Potential locations are instream, riparian, agriculture and range-land areas. GEOLOGICALLY HAZARDOUS AREAS (GHA’s) GHA’s are susceptible to erosion, sliding, and other geological events. GHA’s, related to agricultural activities, are primarily associated with erosion, which include moderate to very severe water erosion potential areas. Wind erosion is also another source. GHA’s include landslide hazard areas, channel migration zones, steep slopes (>40%) and highly erodible soils. Potential locations are agriculture and range-land areas. FREQUENTLY FLOODED AREAS (FFA’s) FFA’s include 100-year floodplains and floodways, and often include the low-lying areas adjacent to rivers that are prone to inundation during heavy rains and snow-melt. FFA’s include streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and areas where ground water can cause flooding. Potential locations are frequently flooded areas occur within in-stream, riparian, agriculture and range-land areas.