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Shoreline Master Programs

"Normal Maintenance or Repair" exemption

This exemption authorizes maintenance or repair of existing lawful structures and developments when they are subject to damage by accident, fire or the elements.

“Normal maintenance” includes those usual acts to prevent a decline, lapse or cessation from a lawfully established condition.

“Normal repair” means to restore a development or structure to a state comparable to its original size, shape, configuration and external appearance. This must be done within a reasonable period of time after the decay or partial destruction. Replacement of the development or structure (comparable to the original) may be exempted where that is the common method of repair. Neither repair nor replacement should be exempted where such action would cause substantial adverse effects to shoreline resources or the environment.

Tips for local administrators

Beware of projects called "maintenance" that actually constitute an expansion in use. Examples include:

  • Local road projects that are actually expansions (such as extra lanes) do not constitute normal maintenance.. Note that "capital improvements" usually need permits.
  • Flood control projects should not be considered normal repair and maintenance if they raise the top or enlarge the footprint of a dike beyond where it was originally constructed. Installation or repair of tide gates, flap gates, and any flood control structures should be carefully scrutinized to assure that they simply restore a pre-existing lawful condition.
  • Maintenance of agricultural drainage ditches may be exempt but dumping the material dug out of the ditches in a shoreline area is filling and may require a permit.
  • Dredging to restore pre-existing contours within a designated and authorized navigation channel or basin is considered normal maintenance. If operations expand the channel or basin, a permit is required even if the marina or similar project has been operating for years. Consider how the dredged material is to be disposed of - picking up mud may be maintenance but putting it down may be filling requiring a permit. Dredging is only maintenance where there is a designated and authorized facility such as a federal navigation channel or a berth authorized by permit. The fact that a formerly navigable area has changed such that it is not now navigable is not sufficient.
  • Replacing piling and decking on docks is normal maintenance and repair but adding deck area, floats, sheds or other expansion is not.

For more information

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