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Shoreline Master Programs

Task 1.2: Develop public participation plan

Public participation has been a cornerstone of local shoreline regulations since the Shoreline Management Act was passed by the legislature in 1971 and affirmed by public referendum in 1972. Public participation is essential to ensuring Shoreline Master Programs (SMPs) reflect a widely-held vision for the future use and enjoyment of shorelines. Local SMPs also provide an ideal venue for educating the public about shorelines and engaging the public as an important co-partner in shoreline stewardship. (Rule citation)

Local governments should involve the public throughout the SMP update process, and are encouraged to use websites, social media (blogs, twitter, etc.), surveys, open houses, neighborhood meetings and other methods to engage the public in meaningful ways.

Local governments that receive state funding must submit a public participation plan to Ecology to ensure planning efforts meet requirements. A plan should describe the participation process including specific contacts, opportunities, and a schedule. At a minimum, local governments must ensure that all interested parties have a meaningful opportunity to participate, and describe and document the steps and methods used.

Ecology also provides the public an opportunity to comment on SMPs submitted for state approval.

For more guidance on public participation and developing a plan, please see the SMP Handbook: Chapter 6, Public Participation.

For printable materials written for citizens, elected officials, and other stakeholders that you may want to use as part of your outreach, see Public Participation Resources or contact Cedar Bouta, Ecology's SMP Communication Planner, or 360-407-6406.

Public participation

Local governments should coordinate with applicable state agencies to identify state interests, relevant regional and statewide efforts, available information, and methods for coordination and input. (Rule citation)

If local SMPs affect Indian tribes, local governments must contact the tribal governments for coordination and input, to identify tribal interests, relevant tribal efforts, and available data and information. (Rule citation)

Many local governments are using web sites as a key way to distribute information and keep the community informed of progress and to distribute draft documents, etc. Local governments are invited to use Ecology’s Citizen Guide as an alternative or in addition to developing their own basic Web information about SMPs and shorelines.

Many local governments use their existing Planning Commission or Shoreline Advisory Committee as sounding boards or for detailed feedback on proposals. Some local governments establish separate technical committees for inventory and assessment work. Shoreline Citizens Advisory Committee Tips

Some suggestions for organizations to involve on committees or in a review capacity:

  • County Conservation District, Extension Service

  • Appropriate local county or city departments, (e.g., public works, natural resources, stormwater, floodplain management)

  • Ports

  • Affected Tribes 

  • Property owners, agricultural and business operators in the shoreline environment

  • Local college or university department representatives (Planning, Natural Resource schools)

  • Environmental or stewardship groups

  • Representatives from state agencies and federal agencies that manage land or major facilities (State parks, Bureau of Land Management, military reservations, etc.)

Local planners should work closely with the following state and federal agencies to ensure the local SMP reflects the best available science and is coordinated with other planning processes.

State agencies

Federal agencies

  • Representatives from agencies conducting research in your area (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey)

  • If your jurisdiction includes species listed under the ESA, representatives from NOAA Fisheries (migratory fish) and/or the US Fish and Wildlife Service (terrestrial species and non-migratory fish) 

Public hearings

State rules require that local governments hold at least one public hearing before approving an SMP (WAC 173-36-100). However, many jurisdictions hold several public meetings, workshops and hearings.

Local governments must publish notice of the hearing in one or more newspapers of general circulation in the area in which the hearing is to be held. The notice shall include:

  1. Reference to the authority(s) under which the action(s) is proposed;
  2. A summary of the proposed changes to the master program;
  3. The date, time, and location of the hearing, and the manner in which interested persons may present their views; and
  4. Reference to the availability of the draft proposal for public inspection at the local government office or upon request

Local examples

For more information

SMP Handbook: Chapter 6, Public Participation

Outreach Materials: For printable materials written for citizens, elected officials, and other stakeholders that you may want to use as part of your outreach, see Public Participation Resources or contact Cedar Bouta, Ecology's SMP Communication Planner, or 360-407-6406.

Law: RCW 90.58.130
Rule: WAC 173-26-201(3)(b)


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