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Shoreline Master Programs

Spokane County Shoreline Master Program: Comprehensive Update

On January 8, 2013, the Washington State Department of Ecology approved Spokane County’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) comprehensive update. Per RCW 90.58.090, the effective date of Spokane County’s shoreline program is January 22, 2013, 14 days after Ecology provided notice to Spokane County that their shoreline program was approved.

Spokane County’s shoreline program has not been comprehensively updated since 1975. This update revises the existing program, including the goals, policies, regulations, shoreline environment designations (land use zones), and administrative procedures and definitions. The modernized shoreline program combines local plans for future development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and permits.

The program affects over 438 miles of the Spokane River, Little Spokane River, Latah (Hangman) Creek and their tributaries, and more than 40 lakes, including Newman and Liberty Lakes. The southern and western areas of the County contain all but one of the area’s forested coulee lakes – which occur nowhere else in the world.

Spokane County's shoreline program will, with the required changes:

  • Create more efficient development review by merging the County's critical areas regulations into the shoreline program.
  • Protect private property rights.
  • Protect fish and wildlife by protecting where they live – critical freshwater habitats.
  • Increase public safety and reduce property damage from floods by mapping where rivers and streams may overflow or change locations, and keeping new development out of harm’s way.
  • Protect the public’s existing access to shorelines, and provide more opportunities to fish, swim and enjoy public waters and shores.
  • Ensure everyone’s right to use public lakes and rivers by limiting the size of docks and other overwater structures.
  • Promote more effective and natural options for stabilizing eroding shorelines.
  • Plan for future, voluntary shoreline restoration that improves water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and other shoreline values.

Additional Background

Completion of the Spokane County Shoreline Master Program update was a multi-year effort on the part of the County, Ecology, the public and a wide variety of stakeholders. The County started the update in 2004, and submitted a locally adopted update to Ecology in June 2009. Over the next three years, the County and Ecology worked together to develop a program that now complies with the Shoreline Management Act and the Shoreline Master Program Guidelines, and meets the needs of the local community.

On September 21, 2012, Ecology sent a conditional approval letter to the Board of County Commissioners with required changes. The required changes were based on Ecology's review of whether or not the County's proposed update complied with the state requirements, and a state public comment period held August 1 - October 2, 2009. Ecology received about 100 comments during the state public comment period on a wide variety of topics, including buffers, docks, public access, onsite septic systems and channel migration zones.

From September 21 – November 21, 2012, Spokane County provided the public an opportunity to comment on the required changes, and held a public hearing on November 8 where Ecology and County staff presented information about the SMP update and required changes. Nearly 200 written or oral public comments were provided to the County. Ecology prepared a written response to the public’s comments in consultation with Spokane County staff. A summary of these comments and Ecology's responses are in Attachment C: Response to Comments, below.

On December 11, 2012, the County commissioners took the final local action to update the Shoreline Master Program by adopting all of Ecology’s required changes with some minor alternative language. The alternative language is necessary to comply with state requirements.

Ecology’s recent approval of the County’s updated shoreline program puts the final stamp on a significant effort that increases protection and restoration of habitat and water quality, provides more certainty for development, and improves public access and recreational opportunities. Spokane County’s next shoreline program update will occur in 2021.


  • Per RCW 90.58.190(2) and RCW 36.70A.290, an interested party may file an appeal with the Growth Management Hearings Board within 60 days of the publication date of Ecology’s written notice of final action.
  • Ecology plans to publish the notice of final action in the Spokesman Review legal ads on January 22, 2013.  

Documents related to approval

Note: All documents are PDF

Final Approval

Required Changes

Spokane County's locally adopted SMP

Background documents

Paper copies of the above documents are available by contacting Sara Hunt, Washington State Department of Ecology, (see Staff contact, below).

Staff contact

Sara Hunt
Washington State Department of Ecology
Eastern Regional Office
4601 N. Monroe Street
Spokane, Washington 99205
(509) 329-3561  

For more information

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