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Shoreline Master Programs

What is "development"?

Under the Shoreline Management Act, development means a use consisting of:

  • the construction or exterior alteration of structures;
  • dredging;
  • drilling;
  • dumping;
  • filling;
  • removal of any sand, gravel, or minerals;
  • bulkheading;
  • driving of piling;
  • placing of obstructions;


  • any project of a permanent or temporary nature which interferes with the normal public use of the surface of waters overlying lands subject to the SMA at any stage of water level

All "developments" within the shorelines of the state must be consistent with the policies of the SMA and the requirements of the local SMP. However, only "substantial developments" require a substantial development permit.

Although a proposed development may be found exempt from substantial development permit requirements, it may still require a variance or conditional use permit and must comply with the local SMP.

Demolition or removal of structures may constitute a development where the act of demolition alters the exterior of a structure, involves filling, dredging, drilling, excavation, placing of obstructions, etc. (greater than $5,000 in value) or materially interferes with public use of the shorelines. In special cases where a structure is moved or dismantled, e.g. unbolted without causing any of the actions listed as "development," a substantial development permit may not be required.

For more information

Law: RCW 90.58.030(3)(e)
Rule: WAC 173-27-030(6)

Contact Ecology's shoreline permit reviewer serving your town, city, or county

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