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Overview and Goals, Shoreline Master Program

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Learn about shoreline ecology

In 1972, Washington State Voters approved the Shoreline Management Act by public referendum. The Shoreline Management Act has three broad policy goals:

  1. Protect shoreline natural resources, including "...the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the water of the state and their aquatic life..."
  2. Promote public access: "the public's opportunity to enjoy the physical and aesthetic qualities of natural shorelines of the state shall be preserved to the greatest extent feasible consistent with the overall best interest of the state and the people generally."
  3. Encourage water-dependent uses: "uses shall be preferred which are consistent with control of pollution and prevention of damage to the natural environment, or are unique to or dependent upon use of the states' shorelines..."

The Shoreline Management Act recognizes that "the shorelines of the state are among the most valuable and fragile of its natural resources." In order to protect this fragile resource, the Shoreline Act requires counties and cities to develop plans and adopt regulations to "prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state's shorelines."

The Shoreline Management Act applies to all marine shorelines, such as Puget Sound, and larger lakes and rivers. It also applies to upland areas within 200 feet of the shoreline edge, floodplains and associated wetlands.

Learn about shorelines

View our award-winning Life on the Edge videos:

30 Years of Growth

In the nearly 30 years since King County's Shorelines Program was adopted, significant development has taken place throughout the county. King County's population has grown by more than 500,000 people since 1980 (King County 2004 Annual Growth Report) and we have seen the addition of numerous new businesses and housing developments, and several new cities.

Shoreline Management in Washington State:
A Legislative and Regulatory History as it Relates to King County

1972 The Citizens of Washington State adopted shoreline regulations by a public referendum. These were codified in Title 90.58* of the RCW (Shoreline Management Act of 1971).
1972 Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act.
1972 The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted Shoreline Management Guidelines.
1975 King County adopted its Shoreline Master Program under KCC Title 25 - Shoreline Management.
November 2000 The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted new Shoreline Management Guidelines.
December 2000 A coalition of business groups and local governments challenged the new Guidelines.
August 2001 The Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board invalidated the new Guidelines.
September 2001 to December 2002 Washington State sponsored successful mediation between Ecology and the plaintiffs.
December 2002 The parties agreed on new Proposed Draft Shoreline Management Guidelines (Version 9/18/2002).
May 2003 Washington State Legislature adopts new timetable for updating local Shoreline Master Programs - King County's is due in 2009. See SSB 6012.
June 2003 Ecology Publishes Proposed Rule Making for Public Comment. The comment period is from July 16 - September 15, 2003. See Ecology's new Shoreline Master Program Guidelines.
January 2004 Shoreline Management Guidelines effective January 17, 2004.
May 2007 First Draft Shoreline Master Program Update and Technical Appendix
September 2007 Second Draft Shoreline Master Program Update and Technical Appendix
October 2008 Third Draft Shoreline Master Program Update and Technical Appendix
February 2009 Fourth Draft Shoreline Master Program Update and Technical Appendix
November 2009 Executive Recommended Shoreline Master Program Update and Technical Appendix
November 2010 King County Council adopts Shoreline Master Program Update
February 2012 Ecology starts review of King County Shoreline Master Program Update
September 2012 Ecology conditional approval of King County Shoreline Master Program Update, subject to adoption of required amendments
December 2012 King County Council adopts Ecology required amendments
January 2013 Ecology approves King County Shoreline Master Program Update
*external link

For more information about shoreline management in King County, please contact Laura Casey, environmental scientist, Department of Local Services.