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Shoreline Master Programs

Shoreline Management Act: Rulemaking 2010-11

Rule adoption notice (printable) | Rulemaking documents | Shellfish Aquaculture Regulatory Committee

Rule amendments adopted

The Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted amendments on February 11, 2011 to the following rules of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC):

  • Chapter 173-18 WAC, Shoreline management act — streams and rivers constituting shorelines of the state
  • Chapter173-20 WAC, Shoreline management act — lakes constituting shorelines of the state
  • Chapter 173-22 WAC, Adoptions of designations of shorelands and wetlands associated with shorelines of the state
  • Chapter 173-26 WAC, State master program approval/amendment procedures and master program guidelines
  • Chapter 173-27 WAC, Shoreline management permit and enforcement procedures

These rules guide how Washington's shoreline law, the Shoreline Management Act (RCW 90.58) is carried out by local governments and Ecology. The purpose of the adopted rule amendments to:

  • Respond to a legislative directive (RCW 43.21A.681) to “adopt, by rule” shoreline master program guidelines that address the potential use conflicts resulting from commercial geoduck aquaculture in shoreline areas.
  • Clarify WAC 173-26-201(1) regarding limited (non-comprehensive) amendments of local shoreline master programs.
  • Complete some housekeeping changes that make the rules more consistent with recent changes to state statutes.

Final rule language

Summary of rule amendments

There are three groups of adopted rule amendments:

  • Housekeeping changes to better align the rules with current state statutes. These changes are related to the State Growth Management Act and critical areas ordinances, and other statutes
  • Changes to WAC 173-26-201(1) that frame how and when local governments can make small changes, called limited amendments, to their existing shoreline master programs. The rule now better clarifies when and under what circumstances these can occur if a comprehensive update is under way.
  • New provisions related to commercial geoduck aquaculture that:
    • Require local governments to better review water quality, contaminated sediment and other shellfish-related data and information during the updating of local shoreline programs.
    • Underscore existing requirements for local governments to have shoreline master program policies, regulations and standards that address aquaculture.
    • Require a conditional use permit for all new commercial geoduck aquaculture and guide the administration and content of these permits.
    • Frame requirements for local commercial geoduck aquaculture project applications.
    • Frame other aspects of reviewing and permitting new commercial geoduck aquaculture projects. These include the requirement for following the existing mitigation sequence in WAC 173-26-201(2)(e) for avoiding or mitigating environmental impacts. Also, this includes the requirement to address the impacts from noise, lights, vehicles, gear and other aspects of commercial geoduck siting and operations.
    • Ensure that local governments notify the public and tribes regarding proposed commercial geoduck aquaculture projects.

Effective date: March 14, 2011

The rule amendments take effect 31 days after the filing date of February 11, 2011. However, it’s important to note that most of the amendments direct local governments in their development and implementation of local shoreline programs, and do not affect private parties until the local government adopts policies and regulations in compliance with the rules. For example, the commercial geoduck provisions (WAC 173-26-241(3)(b)) generally do not apply “on the ground” in Whatcom County until after the next program update scheduled for 2018. If you have questions regarding when the rule amendments will affect you, please contact your local town, city or county planning department.

Appeal procedures

This adoption can be appealed under procedures described in the Administrative Procedure Act (RCW 34.05.330) and the Shoreline Management Act (RCW 90.58.120). For additional information about appealing this adoption please contact Bari Schreiner at (360) 407-6998 or by email Bari.Schreiner@ecy.wa.gov.

Summary of public process

Ecology provided several opportunities for public involvement in shaping the rule amendments. Ecology solicited input from a Shellfish Aquaculture Regulatory Committee (SARC) and an array of affected parties: local governments, shellfish growers, environmental interests, tribes, shoreline property owners, and business groups.

The draft rule was distributed through websites and listservs sponsored by Ecology. Staff also consulted with individual affected parties and gave presentations to groups of local government planners.

Ecology provided a 98-day public comment period. Public hearings were held in Moses Lake, Everett, Lacey, and Aberdeen. There were 41 people in attendance at the hearings, and 14 provided testimony. A comment form was provided at the hearings and on-line. A specific Shoreline Rule email box was set up for questions and comments. Ads were published in each county’s paper of record, and a news release was provided to media across the state.

Please see the Concise Explanatory Statement for public comment and Ecology’s response.

Rulemaking documents

Visit our rules page for printable copies of rulemaking documents.

Staff Contact

Contact:  Ms. Cedar Bouta
Email:     Cedar.Bouta@ecy.wa.gov
Phone:    360-407-6406
Hours:    9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Friday
Mailing Address:
Washington State Department of Ecology
Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA  98504-7600

Special Accommodations

  • To ask about documents in a version for the visually impaired, call the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program at 360-407-7291
  • Persons with hearing loss, call 711 for Washington Relay Service
  • Persons with a speech disability, call 877-833-6341

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Staff contact

Ms. Cedar Bouta