Department of Ecology News Release - February 5, 2013


Bellingham moves to protect 38 miles of shorelines as state approves city's shoreline plans

BELLINGHAM – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved Bellingham’s updated shoreline master program, helping protect 38 miles of shorelines along rivers, lakes and streams in the city. 

“The city has done a valuable thing by updating their plans,” said Geoff Tallent, Ecology’s regional supervisor of shorelines program. “Our shorelines are what make this such a great state to live in. We treasure them and want to protect them for ourselves, our children and future generations.”

Bellingham recently completed its updates as required by the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act. The law requires cities and counties to regularly update their programs. 

The update combines local development and preservation plans with new ordinances and permit requirements. This helps minimize environmental damage, reserves areas, and protects the public’s right to public lands and waters.

As part of the update, Bellingham took a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. The city also included in its process waterfront property owners, scientists, non-profit organizations, tribal government representatives, agricultural interests, and state and local resource agency staff.

“We’re excited to implement the new updates,” said Bellingham planner Steve Sundin. “They include increased protection for Lake Whatcom, our drinking water reservoir. Take into account our massive planning process for the central waterfront. And allow us to implement our restoration plan to improve the ecological function of our shorelines.”

Bellingham’s shoreline master program:

Under state law, Ecology must approve the local shoreline plan before it takes effect. Once approved, it becomes part of the state shoreline master program. And Ecology will help defend the city’s program against legal challenges.

All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014.  They are following regulations adopted by Ecology in 2003.  The regulations resulted from a negotiated settlement among 58 different parties including business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology and the courts.


Media Contacts:

  Larry Altose, Ecology media relations, (425) 649-7009,

  Anthony Boscolo, Ecology shorelines planner, (425) 649-7049,

  Steve Sundin, City of Bellingham Planner, (360) 778-8359,

For more information:

Bellingham’s proposed shoreline master program (

More about shoreline master programs (

Our Living Shorelines web portal (

Ecology's social media (