[ ECA Challenges Explained ]


Building a structure or landscape design project in an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) can be a challenging process. To help our customers better understand what they can expect, we have provided a roadmap and explanation of the ECA development process for homeowners in Seattle and King County.

Disclaimer: Environmental Construction Inc. specializes in figuring out what can be built on a hillside, but we are not permit specialists. Our team focuses on design, drainage issues, landscaping, deck rebuilding, and other structures. We can assimilate and excellent team and oversee your entire project. If you decide to retain Environmental Construction, Inc. as your project quarterback, that would be by separate contract from the ECA work.

Environmentally Critical Area

We like to start our site review by referring our customers to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections GIS web map or King County Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Data. Here the homeowner can zoom in on their address and add layers such as contour lines and any reported ECA designations associated with their property.

Here is a link for any Seattle resident who wants to check their address: http://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html

Residents of King County can view their property at this link: https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/gis/Maps/imap.aspx

If you do fall under an ECA designation and you want to develop your property, the general hoops you may need to jump through, and associated costs, include the following:

  • Brainstorm with our company about what might be possible. We charge a flat fee of $125. for an onsite initial consultation.
  • Meet with a soils engineer for a reality check on ideas generated. Generally, their initial consultations range between $350 and $500. We use Geotech Consultants, Inc. Here is a link to their website: https://geotechnw.com/#about
  • Then you may need to receive a separate soils engineering proposal to check your soil profile.
  • The building of any structure (unless we are repairing an existing structure) would be dictated by the Geotech report and any requirements associated with the ECA (slope, wetlands, etc.)
  • Before we could even start designing a structure or landscape design, a coaching session with a planner and Geotech down at city hall would be advised. We have worked with Susie Thompson on code research. This is a link to her bio: https://susielandscapedesigns.com/about.html
  • Depending on what the planner discovers; the homeowner may need a topographical survey because the burden of proof on exactly where a steep slope or wetlands region begins is on you as the home owner. This will dictate setback locations. The survey can easily run between $3500 and $5500.
  • If you need to have the wetlands delineated (accurately described), we have had great success with The Watershed Company. The last one they did for me was in the $2500 range. Here is a link to their web site: https://www.watershedco.com/
  • Only after these processes have been met does the design process begin. The design is then based on the soils engineer's and wetlands biologist’s (if needed) feedback.
    NOTE: Having a Soils and Structural Engineering and Wetland Biologist’s stamps on all plans is often required by the city.
  • And that is where John McDowell’s team comes in. John's team can handle the structural engineering and any associated pile driving (unless the soils engineer offers a simpler solution for the project). Here is a link to the Pile King website: http://www.pileking.com/aboutus.html

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