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Shoreline Master Programs

Island County Shoreline Master Program: Comprehensive Update

On January 5, 2016, the Department of Ecology approved Island County’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) comprehensive update. Per RCW 90.58.090, the effective date of the Island County shoreline program is January 19, 2016, 14 days after Ecology provided notice to Island County that their shoreline program was approved.

Island County has over 200 miles of shoreline, mainly consisting of a variety of marine near shore environments including bluffs, lagoons and low bank shoreline, a number of lakes make up the county freshwater shorelines. Single family residential development is the predominant shoreline use. The county’s updated Shoreline Master Program consists of unique shoreline environment designations, buffers and setbacks tailored to reflect existing land uses and ecological conditions, detailed aquaculture policies and regulations and unique standards for residential development in historic beach and canal communities. This comprehensive update of the shoreline program will promote protection of ecologically intact shoreline, and recognize Camano and Whidbey Islands historic land use patterns.

On August 17, 2015, the Department of Ecology conditionally approved Island County’s proposed comprehensive update of its Shoreline Master Program (SMP). The comprehensive update will revise the existing shoreline program, including the goals, policies, regulations, shoreline environment designations, and administrative procedures and definitions.

As part of the conditional approval, Ecology sent the county a list of required and recommended changes to the draft program. The county may agree to the changes or offer alternative language. Final Ecology approval will occur when the county and Ecology agree on language that meets state requirements.

Conditional approval was slowed due to disagreement between Ecology and the county over proposed regulations that would have prohibited commercial Atlantic salmon net pens. Ecology’s position was that without adequate justification, such regulations would be counter to the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) obligation to plan for and foster water-dependent uses.

Ecology’s conditional approval allows for the prohibition in Island County based on lack of evidence that net pens are an immediately foreseeable use. If Ecology’s required changes are accepted by the county, the county will revisit the issue during their next statutorily-mandated periodic review of their SMP in 2020. Prior to 2020, Ecology will update state rules and technical guidance addressing commercial finfish net pens.

Ecology used mail and email to notify interested parties of the public comment period. Ecology also issued a news release and legal ad to encourage additional public participation and comment. We received a total of three-hundred and thirty-seven individual comments from sixteen organizations and groups and seventy-nine individual citizens. Comments focused on a wide variety of topics including aquaculture, non-conforming shoreline uses and public access. On July 9, 2013, Ecology sent a summary of comments to Island County for their response. The public comments and county’s responses have been incorporated into a responsiveness summary (see Appendix D, below).

Documents related to approval

Note: All documents are PDF.

Locally adopted shoreline master program

Background documents

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


  • 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 Whidbey News Times legal ads on January 23, 2016 and the Stanwood Camano News legal ads on January 26, 2016.

Staff contact

David Pater
Washington State Department of Ecology
Northwest Regional Office
3190 160th Avenue SE
Bellevue, Washington 98008
(425) 649-4253

For more information

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