Chapters 173-18, 173-20, 173-22, 173-26, 173-27 WAC

Shoreline Management Act 2015 rulemaking



Tim Gates


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Shoreline Master Programs


Ecology adopted several rules related to implementing the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) (RCW 90.58), which establishes a cooperative program of shoreline management between local governments and the state. Chapter 173-26 WAC translates the broad policies of the SMA into standards for regulation of shoreline uses which local governments must follow when drafting local Shoreline Master Programs (SMPs).

The SMA requires Ecology to periodically review and update Chapter 173-26 WAC. Other related chapters are being amended in this update to improve clarity and consistency across the rules.

The rules that were adopted:

Scope of rule development

Proposed amendments address the following topics:

  1. Clarifying the process to comply with the SMA’s periodic review requirement. The SMA required a comprehensive update of all Shoreline Master Programs (SMP) statewide. The SMA also requires all SMPs be reviewed, and updated if needed, on a repeating eight-year cycle (RCW 90.58.080(4)). The first round of SMP reviews are due June 2019. Preliminary draft language outlines a review and approval process, with the goal of providing certainty for local governments, Ecology, citizens and appellate boards as to expectations for periodic review compliance.
  2. Creating an optional joint public review process related to SMP amendments by providing a new option for a consolidated local and state comment period.
  3. Adopting “housekeeping” amendments to ensure consistency with statutory changes and capturing any administrative updates since the last rule revision.

Process of development

Ecology’s process for developing amendments included gathering input from a local government sounding board, releasing preliminary draft text to get early feedback, consulting with tribes, reaching out to affected stakeholders and the public, and following the formal steps for rule announcement, proposal and adoption.