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Shoreline Master Programs

Task 2.2.3: Conduct shoreline use analysis and identify public access opportunities

This key SMP planning task includes projecting the shoreline space needed for water-oriented uses and public access. Local planners should conduct a use analysis that reviews existing shoreline uses and trends. They should project future demand of water-dependent, water-related and water-oriented uses – uses that have a direct relationship to the water. Local planners should also review existing public access availability, and determine opportunities for access and whether additional access is needed.

This task builds on the inventory that’s prepared under Task 2.1. Local planners should use the inventory, other local documents and plans, and future growth and trend projections to conduct this task. The results should be included in the inventory and characterization report (Task 2.3).

Conduct shoreline use analysis

The SMP Guidelines (WAC 173-26-201(3)(d)(ii)) require a shoreline use analysis to estimate the future demand for shoreline space and identify potential use conflicts. The objective is to ensure that the shoreline is available for uses that are unique to or dependent on the shoreline. The resulting report should discuss whether the shorelines in your jurisdiction will be able to accommodate the future demand for shoreline space, particularly the preferred uses.

Basic steps include:

  • Estimate future demand for shoreline space. For example, these may include:
    • Shipping and ports.
    • Water-dependent uses such as ferry terminals and marinas.
    • Water-related uses such as storage of goods transported by water.
    • Water-enjoyment uses such as parks or aquariums.
    • Single family houses.
    • Public access and recreation.
  • Identify potential use conflicts. For example, development could conflict with protection of nearshore and riparian habitat, or industrial development could conflict with nearby residential development.
  • Characterize current shoreline use.
    • Current shoreline use patterns – single family, industrial, commercial, recreation, etc.
    • Comprehensive plan designations and land use zoning.
    • Overwater structures – piers, boat houses, and marinas, and shoreline armoring such as bulkheads and revetments.
  • Identify projected trends.
  • Future development.
  • Community need and desires.

The level of analysis required will depend upon existing land use patterns and potential future demand for shoreline space and use. For example, a city or county with full build out of their residential shoreline would focus on redevelopment. A city or county with a high percentage of undeveloped shoreline and diversity of possible uses would require a more in-depth analysis.

If the shoreline includes a designated harbor area or urban waterfront with intensive uses or significant development or redevelopment issues, you should work with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and local port authority to ensure consistency with harbor area statutes and regulations, and to address port plans. The analysis should include identifying measures and strategies to encourage appropriate use of these shoreline areas.

Identify public access opportunities

The SMP Guidelines require local governments to “identify public access needs and opportunities within the jurisdiction and explore actions to enhance shoreline recreation facilities” (WAC 173-26-201(3)(d)(v)).

Sites that currently provide public access, both physical and visual access, will be identified during the shoreline inventory. Additional public access opportunities may be identified during the inventory or through public scoping (SMP Handbook: Chapter 7, Shoreline Inventory and Characterization). The existing and potential public access sites should be identified in the shoreline inventory and characterization report, preferably for each shoreline reach.

Existing plans that address public access should be summarized in the report. For example, a parks plan may call for trail development near the water, or a new kayak launching beach.

For more information

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