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Washington’s Shoreline Management Act was passed by the legislature in 1971 and affirmed by voters in 1972. The Act governs the use and development of Washington’s shorelines and creates a unique partnership between local and state government. The Act strives to achieve responsible shoreline use and development, environmental protection, and public access. Local governments develop programs based on the Act and state guidance, and the state ensures local programs consider statewide public interests. Shoreline master programs carry out the policies of the Shoreline Management Act at the local level, regulating use and development of shorelines. Local shoreline programs include policies and regulations based on state laws and rules but tailored to the unique geographic, economic, and environmental needs of each community. State law requires jurisdictions to review and update their SMPs every eight years in accordance with the Shoreline Management Act, RCW 90.58.080 (4) and its current guidelines and legislative rules. The City is aiming to complete the SMP update in the Spring of 2021 for approval by the Washington State Department of Ecology by end of June 2021.

What is the Shoreline Management Act?

The Washington SMA was adopted by the public in a 1972 referendum “to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.” The SMA establishes a balance of authority between local and state government. Cities and counties are the primary regulators, but the State has authority to review local shoreline management programs and permit decisions.

The SMA has three broad policies:

  1. Encourage water-dependent and water-oriented 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…”
  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. Protect shoreline natural resources, including “…the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the water of the state and their aquatic life…”

Where Does the SMP Apply? 

The SMA and the SMP apply to all “shorelines of the state”, which includes all “shorelines” and “shorelines of statewide significance” within Washington. Shorelines, as defined by the SMA, are all water areas together with the lands underlying them, which meet certain flow or acreage criteria. This is defined as marine coastal areas, all rivers and streams having a mean annual flow of 20 cubic feet per second or greater, and lakes over 20 acres in size. Shorelines of statewide significance are certain water areas that the Legislature has determined to have a unique character warranting special status and protection.

Within the City of Poulsbo, the following areas of Liberty Bay and Dogfish Creek are within the city’s shoreline jurisdiction. The exact location of these areas will be determined at the time of a permit application.

  • Liberty Bay. That portion of Liberty Bay adjacent to any upland area within the city limits and extending to the midpoint of Liberty Bay.
  • Dogfish Creek. That portion of Dogfish Creek from the mouth of Liberty Bay to the extent of saltwater influence (end of estuary).
  • Uplands. Those shorelands extending two hundred feet landward from the ordinary high water mark of the jurisdictional areas identified in subsections A and B of this section.
  • As allowed by RCW 90.58.030(2)(f)(ii) and WAC 173-26-221(2)(a), the city has chosen to not expand its shoreline jurisdiction to include critical area buffers that are located outside of the shoreline jurisdiction. These areas will continue to be regulated by Chapter 16.20.

What Does the SMP Regulate?

All land use activities within the shoreline jurisdiction must meet the goals, policies, and regulations in the SMP regardless of the type of shoreline permit required. This includes over-water structures, new buildings and structures, and land development activities such as clearing, grading, or filling.

Living With Your Shoreline

Helpful Links

Shoreline Management Act Statutes and Administrative Regulations

Education & Periodic Code Update Timelines

Maps & Photographs

For Planners & Program Administrators