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Shoreline Master Programs

What is a Shoreline Master Program?

Master programs are defined in the Shoreline Management Act as: ". . .the comprehensive use plan for a described area, and the use regulations together with maps, diagrams, charts, or other descriptive material and text, a statement of desired goals, and standards..."  [RCW 90.58.030(3)(a)]

Every SMP is unique, and many newer SMPs are integrated to some degree into local comprehensive plans and development regulations. However, most SMPs include the following:

  1. Introduction information on the relationship of the SMP to other regulatory programs, description of the legal framework and applicability of the SMP, and orientation on how to use the document.
  2. Goals that serve as broad expressions of community desires relative to SMP "elements": shoreline use, economic development, public access, circulation, recreation, conservation and historical/cultural values. Goals provide the basis for, and are intended to help implement, SMP policies and regulations. The shoreline elements are required by the SMA at RCW 90.58.100(2).
  3. General policies and regulations that apply to shoreline uses and modification activities irrespective of environment designations. Policies are the bridge between goals and regulations, translating the general into the specific. Shoreline policies are legally enforceable. Regulations are more specific, enforceable controls and standards for shoreline development.
  4. Policies and regulations for shoreline uses such as agriculture, aquaculture, mining, commercial, industrial, recreation and boating facilities. A shoreline "use" is defined as the "end" to which a land or water area is ultimately employed. Regulations in SMPs are often referred to as "use requirements."
  5. Policies and regulations for shoreline modification activities including dredging, piers, construction of bulkheads, and other actions undertaken in preparation for, or in support of, a shoreline use. Regulations for shoreline modification activities generally deal with construction impacts whereas "use" regulations pertain to long term management as well.
  6. Environment designations: shorelines are classified into specific “environment designations” based on their physical, biological and development characteristics. Historically, SMPs have used primarily four basic environment designations (“natural", "conservancy", "rural" and "urban"). New state guidelines recommend six designations: "natural," "rural-conservancy," "urban conservancy," "high-intensity," "shoreline residential," and "aquatic." Local governments may modify state recommended classifications to better accommodate shoreline areas with unique characteristics. Policies and regulations are developed for each designation, reflecting the specific purpose and intent of each environment and responding to its specific conditions.
  7. Administrative regulations for permit and enforcement, and for making amendments to the shoreline master program.
  8. Technical appendices such as maps of the environment designations and boundary descriptions for environment designations are usually incorporated into SMPs.

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