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Shoreline Master Programs

Task 3.3 Develop environment designations

See SMP Handbook: Chapter 13 for more guidance on shoreline environment designations.

Environment designations are analogous to zoning designations for areas under Shoreline Management Act jurisdiction. Their intent is to encourage uses that will protect or enhance the current or desired character of a shoreline.

During the inventory, analysis and characterization (Phase 2), recommended shoreline measures were identified. These measures should be used when developing environmental designations. Policies and regulations specific to environmental designations must be prepared. These policies and regulations will apply to all uses allowed within the areas with the environment designation.

The SMP Guidelines recommend the six designations below. Local governments may establish a different designation system or may retain their current environment designations, provided it is consistent with the purposes and policies of the Guidelines. The policies and regulations for each designation should reflect the purpose and intent of each environment and reflect its specific conditions.

Ecology guidelines for shoreline environment designations

The SMP Guidelines describe basic requirements for designations, including requirements of the classification system and specific mapping requirements. The Guidelines also include criteria to help local governments evaluate the consistency between SMP environment designation provisions and the corresponding comprehensive plan elements and development regulations.

WAC 173-26-211 defines policies and designation criteria for the following environments:

Map preliminary environment designations

The SMP Guidelines require that local governments classify and map shorelines into designations based on:

  • existing use patterns,
  • biological and physical character of the shoreline,
  • the goals and aspirations of the community as expressed through comprehensive plans, and
  • specific criteria for six environments.

The Guidelines require an "up to date and accurate map of the shoreline area delineating the environment designations and their boundaries." (Rule citation)

The SMP Guidelines require that local governments should submit with every final SMP submittal, “amended environment designation map(s), showing both existing and proposed designations, together with corresponding boundaries described in text for each change of environment.” Local governments should summarize any recommended changes to shoreline environment designations. After preparing the maps, local governments should prepare a table summarizing changes. (Rule citation)

Local examples

For more information


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