RAPID/Roadmap/13-WA-a

From Open Energy Information

< RAPID‎ | Roadmap

RAPIDRegulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit
My Projects

Washington State Shoreline Use Assessment Overview (13-WA-a)

In Washington, a developer may need to obtain a Shoreline Permit or Shoreline Exemption from the local government and/or the Washington Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”) for certain project developments as indicated in the local government’s Shoreline Master Program (“SMP”) and/or the Shoreline Management Act (R.C.W. §§ 90.58 et seq.) (“SMA”). Washington Department of Ecology – Shoreline Master Programs Webpage, Washington – Wash. Admin. Code §§ 173-27 et seq., Shoreline Management Permit and Enforcement Procedures.

Washington’s SMA establishes a local-state partnership in administering shoreline authorizations. Local governments have the primary responsibility for initiating the planning required by the SMA and administering the program. The Department of Ecology’s role is primarily supportive with review capacity. The Department of Ecology provides assistance to local governments and insures compliance with the policies and procedures of the SMA. Washington Department of Ecology – Shoreline Master Programs Webpage. SMPs 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. SMPs are created in partnership with the local community and Department of Ecology, and must comply with the SMA and Washington – Wash. Admin. Code §§ 173-26 et seq., State Master Program Approval and Master Program Guidelines. Washington Department of Ecology – Shoreline Master Programs Webpage.

There are multiple shoreline authorizations including a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit, a Shoreline Exemption, a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, and a Shoreline Variance Permit. The type of shoreline authorization needed depends on the project location and specifications. A developer must obtain all applicable Shoreline Permits before a project can receive a positive Federal Consistency Determination with Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program.


State Shoreline Use Assessment Overview Process

13-WA-a.1 – Contact Regional Shoreline Planning and Permitting Office

The developer should contact the local shoreline planning and permitting office to determine: the local Shoreline Master Program (“SMP”) requirements, what type of permit the developer may need or to confirm whether the proposed project is exempt. Even Shoreline Management Act (“SMA”) exempt projects may need to comply with regional SMP rules and regulations. For a list of regional shoreline planners and shoreline permit reviewers see: Washington Shoreline Management Regional Planning and Permitting Staff Contact Webpage.


13-WA-a.2 to 13-WA-a.3 – Does the Project Interfere with the Public Use of Shorelands or Is the Project Located Within 200 Feet of Marine Waters, Streams, Lakes, Wetlands, or Floodplains?

All "developments" within the shorelines of the state must be consistent with the policies of the Shoreline Management Act (R.C.W. §§ 90.58 et seq.) and the requirements of the local SMP. Shorelines include all waters of the state, including reservoirs and their associated shorelands. R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(2)(e). Shorelands are those “…lands extending landward for 200 feet in all directions…” (e.g., floodplains, wetlands, streams, lakes, tidal waters). R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(2)(d).

Under the SMA, “development” means a use consisting of:

  • the construction or exterior alteration of structures;
  • dredging;
  • drilling;
  • dumping;
  • filling;
  • removal of any sand, gravel, or minerals;
  • bulkheading;
  • driving of piling;
  • placing of obstructions; or
  • any project of a permanent or temporary nature which interferes with the normal public use of the surface of waters overlying lands subject to the SMA at any stage of water level.

R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(a); W.A.C. § 173-27-030(6).

In short, any project, permanent or temporary which interferes with public use of shorelands or any project within 200 feet of marine waters, streams, lakes, wetlands or floodplains must obtain a Shoreline Permit, unless otherwise exempt. Washington Governor’s Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Aquatic Permitting Guide; R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(2)(d)-(e); (3)(a); W.A.C. § 173-27-030(6).

The developer should contact regional shoreline planning and permitting office to determine: the local SMP requirements, what type of permit the developer may need or to confirm whether the proposed project is exempt. Even SMA exempt projects may need to comply with regional SMP rules and regulations. For a list of regional shoreline planners and shoreline permit reviewers see: Washington Shoreline Management Regional Planning and Permitting Staff Contact Webpage.

There are multiple shoreline authorizations including a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit, a Shoreline Exemption, a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and a Shoreline Variance Permit. The type of shoreline authorization needed depends on the project location and specifications. Follow the flowchart narrative below to determine what type of permit or exemption is required.

13-WA-a.4 to 13-WA-a.5 – Is the Project Exempt From the Shoreline Management Act?

The SMA exempts certain development types from some or all SMA requirements.

Specific Use Exemptions

There are several specific use exemptions in the SMA, including, but not limited to:

If the project falls under a specific use exemption in the SMA, the developer may not need a Shoreline Permit, unless the local government’s SMP state’s otherwise. The developer should contact regional shoreline planning and permitting office serving to determine the regions SMP and confirm the proposed project is exempt. For a list of regional shoreline planners and shoreline permit reviewers see: Washington Shoreline Management Regional Planning and Permitting Staff Contact Webpage.


R.C.W. §§ 90.58.045; R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(a); Washington Shoreline Master Program – Exempt Development Webpage; W.A.C. § 173-27-045.

13-WA-a.6 to 13-WA-a.7 – Does the Project Require a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit or Exemption?

Unless specifically exempt, all development projects that meet the legal definition of “substantial development” require a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. “Substantial development” means any development where the total cost or fair market value exceeds a value determined by Washington’s Office of Financial Management. The original value was set at $5000 in 2007, and is adjusted for inflation every five (5) years based on changes in the consumer price index during that time period. R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e). The 2012 adjustment set the value at $6,416. A new value will be set in 2017.

The local government shoreline planning and permitting office helps the developer make the determination of whether a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit is required. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematics.

Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Exemptions

The most common exemption is from the Substantial Development Permit requirements (R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e). Substantial development does not include:

  • Normal maintenance or repair of existing structures or developments, including damage by accident, fire or elements;
  • Operation, maintenance, or construction of canals, waterways, drains, reservoirs, or other facilities that now exist or are hereafter created or developed as part of an irrigation system for the primary purpose of making use of system waters, including return flow and artificially stored groundwater for irrigation of lands;
  • Certain site exploration and investigation activities pursuant to R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e)(xi).

R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e); W.A.C. § 173-27-040(2).

For a complete list of activities that are not substantial developments, see: R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e); W.A.C. § 173-27-040(2).

Note: Exempt activities may be conditioned and not all Washington State Environmental Policy Act exempt project activities are exempt from the SMA. Washington Shoreline Master Program – Exempt Development Webpage.

For more information about a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit or Exemption, see:

Shoreline Substantial Development Permit:
13-WA-g


Although a proposed development may be found exempt from Substantial Development Permit requirements, it may still require a Variance or Conditional Use Permit and must comply with the local SMP and all development standards. W.A.C. § 173-27-040(1)(b); Washington Department of Ecology – Shoreline Master Programs Webpage.


13-WA-a.8 to 13-WA-a.10 – Does the Project Require a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit or Shoreline Variance Permit?

Local governments have developed regulations in their SMPs regarding the regulation of developments and uses of water bodies and associated upland areas to protect human health and the natural environment. If the proposed project activity does not require a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, it may need either a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit or a Shoreline Variance Permit. Washington State – Governor’s Office Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Conditional Use Permit Webpage; Washington State – Governor’s Office Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Variance Permit Webpage.

Shoreline Conditional Use Permit and Variance

A developer needs a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit if a proposed use is listed as a conditional use in a local government’s environmental designation, or if the SMP does not address the use. Each SMP defines “conditional uses,” (i.e., uses that are not preferred or allowed outright but may be permitted when specified conditions are met). Shoreline Conditional Use Permits are issued by local governments (approved and denied), then sent to the Department of Ecology for further review and approval or disapproval. Washington State – Governor’s Office Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Conditional Use Permit Webpage.


A developer may also need a Shoreline Variance Permit to deviate from an SMP’s dimensional standards (e.g., setback, height, or lot coverage requirements). Each SMP contains numerical development standards (e.g., heights, setback distances, etc.) A developer may request a variance from those numerical standards for their proposed development. Variances are issued by local governments, and then sent to the Department of Ecology for further review and approval or disapproval. Washington State – Governor’s Office Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Variance Permit Webpage.

For more information regarding the Shoreline Conditional Use Permit and Shoreline Variance Permit process, see:

Shoreline Conditional Use Permit and Variance:
13-WA-h



Add to Project

Contact Information

| Add a Contact