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Shoreline Master Programs

Task 4.1: Prepare restoration plan

Developing a shoreline restoration plan is one of the most important tasks in updating a Shoreline Master Program (SMP). Without a well designed restoration plan, most local governments probably cannot meet the “no net loss” standard of the SMP Guidelines. Research has shown that even the best designed and implemented mitigation projects are subject to some degree of failure. A restoration plan, therefore, is needed to offset the expected loss of function that will occur from site-specific mitigation and other incremental impacts sustained over time. (SMP Handbook: Chapter 4, No Net Loss of Shoreline Ecological Functions)

The restoration plan is a framework for restoration based on the shoreline inventory and characterization. It should include a list of ongoing, proposed and potential restoration projects. The restoration plan can address both non-regulatory and regulatory restoration projects.

The inventory and characterization of ecosystem processes and functions (SMP Handbook: Chapter 7) provides the basic information for the restoration plan. The inventory and characterization report includes products related to restoration: a map showing “opportunities” for shoreline restoration and protection, and a list of shoreline management measures to protect and restore ecosystem processes and shoreline functions. The map and list of measures can serve as the framework to establish priorities for restoration projects that will have a greater potential benefit. Identification of existing and ongoing restoration efforts unique to each community should also compliment local shoreline restoration plan goals and objectives.

Restoration plans provide an opportunity to consider anticipated or existing development. This includes development that could be affected by the landward extension of shoreline jurisdiction from anticipated shoreline restoration projects. Regulatory relief for restoration projects was added to the Shoreline Management Act by the 2009 State Legislature (RCW 90.58.580), which helps ensure regulations designed to protect our shorelines do not become an obstacle to habitat restoration.

Restoration planning will vary among local governments, depending on:

  • Size of local government.
  • Extent and condition of shorelines.
  • Availability of grants, volunteer programs or other restoration tools.
  • Nature of the ecological functions to be addressed.

The SMP Guidelines (WAC 173-26-201(2)(f)) require restoration plans to address the following six subjects. These subjects are shown in the order provided in the Guidelines. However, developing a restoration plan is an iterative process, and will not necessarily follow this order.

Identify degraded areas, impaired functions and sites with potential for ecological restoration

Using information from the inventory and characterization, identify degraded shoreline areas, areas with potential for shoreline restoration, and areas with fully functioning shorelines that should be protected, within each shoreline reach.

During the inventory and characterization process, areas within a watershed that have degraded and healthy processes and functions were identified. From this information (see table below), a map of recommended restoration and protection areas and associated measures was developed. The map and table of measures can then serve as the framework for selecting and prioritizing existing and future restoration projects that will have a greater potential benefit for restoration of shoreline processes and functions.

Thus, a restoration plan can be readily prepared from existing information and analysis previously completed.

East Fork Issaquah Creek and Mainstem, Reaches X & D:

Unimpaired Conditions Assessment of watershed processes & functions

Level of impairment to processes & functions and associated issues

Solutions and Actions:

Recommended protection & restoration measures and environment designations

Ecosystem processes:  

What areas are important in the watershed for maintaining processes at this reach?   

Forested areas of watershed in areas of higher precipitation, including rain-on-snow and snow dominated areas. Areas of higher permeability.

Source:  Issaquah Creek Final Basin Plan 1996 

 Shoreline functions:

What functions are present at the site (un-impaired conditions)?

Floodplain storage, removal of sediment, nutrients and toxins, aquatic and riparian habitat.

Source:  Appendix B, Protecting Aquatic Ecosystems, Ecology Publication 05-06-027

Ecosystem processes:  

How have the processes been impaired?

Watershed Processes.  Forested areas in upper watershed have low degree of clearing and development.  Water flow processes are therefore functioning properly for the broad scale. 

Source:  Dept of Ecology watershed characterization 2008

Reach Scale Processes. Overbank flooding is impaired by streambank armoring.  This increases overall flooding potential for the City of Issaquah, which is a significant issue. Fine sediment processes highly impacted from roads and urban development:  High percentage of substrate impacted by fine sediment.  Large woody debris (LWD) is limited and existing material is either unstable or ineffective.

Source:   Stream Inventory and Habitat Evaluation Report 2003  

Shoreline functions:

How have the functions been impaired?

Floodplain storage function has been significantly impaired by armoring and dikes.  Water quality functions are not significantly impaired in the East Fork.  Fecal coliform, low DO and suspended sediment problems in mainstem for Reach D.

Riparian functions: 68% of riparian habitat dominated by urban uses in Reach X. Sizable portion of riparian corridor intact for Reach D.

Fish Habitat:  Only 5% of riffles are available for spawning in Reach X.  Lack of side channel habitat in Reach D. 7 to 8% of time spawning temperatures exceeded for Reach D. Pool frequency low and spawning gravels embedded for Reach D.

Source:   Stream Inventory and Habitat Evaluation Report 2003

Ecosystem processes and functions:

What are the solutions and actions based on analysis of processes and functions (columns 1 and 2)?

Analysis:  Water flow processes are intact and protected for broader watershed.  This will help support natural flow regimes and restoration of structure and function in downstream habitats. Sediment and LWD processes appear to be impaired at the reach scale.

Solution and Actions: Restore overbank flooding in reach X and D by removing armoring and dikes.  Restore riparian forest - replant buffer with species contributing to LWD recruitment.  Provide for better control of fine sediment sources from roads and construction.  Start stormwater retrofit program to reduce direct discharge to creek and capture sediment through bioswales and restoration of natural features.

Recommended Designation, Development Standards and Regulations:

 A Public Recreation and Riparian Restoration Management zone or designation is recommended for these reaches.  Several of the properties are in city ownership and slated for park development (Emily Darst and Cybil Madeline Parks).  Restoration actions should be linked by regulations to projects 17,18,19,20 and 48 in Stream and Riparian Restoration Plan (2006).  Setbacks for new park development should be adequate to allow establishment of a riparian buffer (minimum 150 feet).


Establish overall goals and priorities for restoration of degraded areas and impaired ecological functions

To help establish overall goals and priorities for restoration of degraded areas, it’s helpful to understand the importance of each proposed restoration within a watershed context. This requires an understanding of shoreline processes and functions for the restoration site relative to the ecological processes and functions within the contributing coastal watersheds. Information from the shoreline inventory and characterization, as shown in the above table, should identify the significant shoreline processes, the ecological significance of each degraded area, and the key restoration goals based on the type of impairment.

Using the inventory and characterization information, determine which areas have high potential for restoration. This can be accomplished by identifying those areas having moderate to high importance for ecosystem-wide processes and ecological functions and are not permanently impaired. Permanent impairment of ecological processes and functions occurs with paving and buildings and is typical of urban watersheds. It is more difficult to restore processes and functions in highly developed urban settings. In urban areas, potential restoration sites are those that are less impaired, such as undeveloped lots, parks, riparian buffers or undeveloped sections of industrial sites. Impaired areas that can be more easily restored typically occur in rural watersheds with uses such as agriculture and forestry. These types of impairments have a greater potential for restoration.

Based on information from your characterization (including information from other basin plans and watershed studies) determine which restoration projects and programs will best:

  • Restore ecosystem processes and function for coastal watersheds in your jurisdiction.
  • Achieve restoration goals by addressing key environmental problems (e.g. flooding, shoreline and aquatic habitat degradation or loss, water quality issues.)

Goals and policies that provide for restoration of impaired ecological functions must be included in the SMP (WAC 173-26-186(8)(c)). SMP goals can also be included in the restoration plan and vice versa.

Identify existing and ongoing projects and programs

These projects and programs include those currently being implemented or that are reasonably assured of being implemented, and are designed to contribute to local restoration goals. The restoration plan should include a list of existing and ongoing restoration projects and programs. These projects and programs should be within your shoreline jurisdiction or relevant to your shorelines. Such projects and programs can be conducted by municipal government, nongovernmental organizations, port districts, water districts, regional and state agencies, federal agencies, tribes, etc. This list is intended to be available to the public and agencies and organizations conducting restoration in order to encourage better coordination and consistent objectives.

Consider which existing and ongoing restoration plans and programs would have a greater ecological benefit for your shoreline. Existing restoration programs may fit as restoration priorities.

A map that shows the location of the restoration projects relative to priority restoration areas can be a useful product for this step. Also, a prioritized list of potential restoration projects aimed at currently impaired functions can also be useful as the plan is implemented over time and restoration opportunities emerge. The Port Townsend SMP for example, includes a list of specific prioritized restoration measures and projects identified for each stretch of shoreline.

Identify additional projects and programs to meet restoration goals

This also includes identifying implementation strategies, including prospective funding sources for the projects and programs.

  • Where and what kind of restoration would address environmental problems?(For example, flooding, shoreline and aquatic habitat degradation or loss, water quality issues.)
  • What other projects and programs will address impaired shoreline functions and provide ecological benefit to the shoreline?

After identifying all existing and planned restoration programs, high priority watersheds without planned restoration projects and programs can be identified. Additional programs and actions should be developed to restore these high priority processes.

Identify timelines and benchmarks for implementing restoration projects and programs and achieving local restoration goals

Effective implementation of the restoration framework (projects and programs) requires a comprehensive approach using both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. It is more efficient to develop mechanisms and strategies (discussed below) before setting timelines and benchmarks.

Timelines should show both short-term and long-term projects. For example, a short-term project would be establishing native vegetation at a specific site. A long–term strategy could address controlling stormwater runoff or controlling invasive plants.

Benchmarks help you to figure out if you’ve finished a project and ultimately, achieved your goal.

Provide for mechanisms or strategies

The mechanisms or strategies should ensure that restoration projects and programs will be implemented according to plans. They also should ensure review of the effectiveness of the projects and programs in meeting the overall restoration goals.

What combination of non-regulatory and regulatory measures and strategies would be most effective in implementing the restoration framework? Identify the specific projects and programs you will implement, the mechanisms for implementing them, and the responsible parties.

Ecology suggests that stakeholders be involved in developing this component of the restoration plan to help ensure its implementation. Innovative approaches are encouraged and may include, for example:

  • A GIS-based permitting support tool that provides users easy access to a suite of best management practices tailored to a particular development activity and its location. This GIS support tool would be linked to a restoration database.
  • Transfer of development rights tailored to the watershed.
  • Instruction for using conservation easements, land use contracts and other legal mechanisms on lands that are identified as critical for maintaining processes and functions in watershed.
  • Use of the public benefit rating system and open space taxation program.
  • Farm plan management (working with the Conservation District) for small and moderate sized farms.

For more information

SMP Guidelines:

SMP Handbook:


Back to top or Go to Task 4.2, Revisit draft environment designations, policies, and regulations and finalize maps