Shoreline Management Act

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Under state law, local jurisdictions are required to develop and maintain a Shoreline Master Program, consistent with and approved by Washington State Department of Ecology. These programs complete a planning process that results in goals and policies, the designation of shoreline types, and municipal regulations that govern those shorelines.

  • This work is completed under the authority of the Shoreline Management Act.

"Shoreline Master Programs are local land use policies and regulations designed to manage shoreline use. These local programs protect natural resources for future generations, provide for public access to public waters and shores, and plan for water-dependent uses. They are created in partnership with the local community and Ecology, and must comply with the state Shoreline Management Act and Shoreline Master Program Guidelines.Over 260 local programs must be updated by 2014. These updates are a unique opportunity to create a positive future for Washington’s shorelines. We hope you will get involved."


  • The Municipal Research and Services Center provides a Shoreline Management Act Overview Page which includes a list of precedent setting court cases.
    • Up to three permits are issued for a regulated shoreline action: substantial development, conditional use, and variance permits. Ecology must issue the final decision on conditional use and variance permits.
    • The Shoreline Hearings Board decides on appeals to permit decisions or penalties issued by Jurisdictions or Ecology.
    • "In the granting variances in shorelines cases, consideration must be given to the cumulative impact of additional requests for like actions in the area."
    • Ecology does not have statutory authority to review a substantial development permit issued under and approved SMP.
    • "shoreline master programs (SMPs) developed pursuant to the Shoreline Management Act are not subject to RCW 82.02.020, which prohibits local governments from imposing direct or indirect taxes, fees, or charges on development."
  • File:Kramer et al 2010 using PSNERP for SMPs.pdf analyzes the relationship between PSNERP, a state/federal study of nearshore ecosystem restoration, and Shoreline Master Program implementation.
  • File:Kramer et al 2010 shoreline no net loss framework.pdf describes strategies for quantifying no-net-loss consistent with SMA.