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Shoreline Master Programs

Local review and approval of shoreline permits

Some key questions local governments ask when reviewing an application for a shoreline permit:

What kind of development is it?

What is the nature of the shoreline that is potentially affected?

  • What SMA water body is it in, on, under, or adjacent to? 
  • Is it in or on a Shoreline of State Wide Significance (SSWS)? If so, are the SSWS priorities satisfied?
  • Is it in a wetland, floodway, or 100-year floodplain?
  • Is shoreline jurisdiction (e.g., OHWM) clearly identified in the application?
What aspects of the local SMP apply to the proposed project?
  • What is the site’s environment designation? Is the proposal consistent with requirements of the applicable environment or are modifications needed?
  • If the SMP includes general regulations, how do they apply to the proposal?
  • Was it assigned the proper Shoreline master program "use" category or categories? If not, what use/ activity sections of the SMP apply?
  • Does the proposal require a SDP, variance, and or conditional use permit(s)?
  • If the proposal requires a variance or CUP, are all the criteria met that would allow granting a permit?
  • What are the public notice and hearing requirements for the particular type of shoreline permit, (i.e. variance, CUP, SDP)?
Are other permit authorizations required?
  • Has SEPA been complied with and documented?
  • Are other permits required? What permit actions have already been taken?

A key component of effective permit review is the applicant's site plans and application materials. Because plans can sometimes misrepresent actual conditions, Ecology recommends local governments conduct site visits to understand how the proposal might affect adjacent property or the environment, especially if conditions are placed on the permit.

Local government action (approval, approve with conditions, or denial)

Following public notice and review, the local government may take action on the application. Any action taken prior to the expiration of the comment period may be voided by the failure to comply with this requirement.

After a final shoreline permit decision is made and all local appeals or appeal periods have been exhausted, the local government must notify the applicant and transmit the final action, (approved permit, denial or revision) to Ecology and the Attorney General's office.

Interested parties who have requested notification must also be informed of the decision in a timely manner [RCW 90.58.140(4). Permit decisions should not be filed with the State until all local appeals and or appeal periods have been resolved or exhausted.

Construction is not authorized until 21 days after the "date of filing" or until all review proceedings (upon appeal) are terminated [RCW 90.58.140(5).]

For more information

Law: RCW 90.58.140; RCW 90.58.180

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

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