Shoreline permits & enforcement

Issuing shoreline permits, reviewing and approving exemptions, and enforcing shoreline regulations are the ways local governments implement their Shoreline Master Programs. Shoreline programs include regulations for development within shoreline jurisdiction. Those regulations generally apply whether or not a shoreline permit is required.

Start with your local government

Local government has the primary responsibility for administering shoreline programs. We primarily provide technical support to local governments and have the authority to approve two of the three types of shoreline permits.

Substantial development permits

One type of shoreline permit is a substantial development permit. This permit is required for most development that meets a specific dollar threshold and is considered “substantial development” under the state Shoreline Management Act.

Some types of development are exempt from requirements for a substantial development permit. The law (RCW.90.58.030(3)(e)) calls out shoreline development and activities that are not considered substantial development and therefore not subject to this specific permit requirement.

Conditional use permits and variances

Local governments and Ecology must approve shoreline conditional use permits and variances. One or more permits may be required for a development project. For example, a project may need both a substantial development and a conditional use permit. Or, a conditional use or variance permit may be required although a substantial development permit is not required.

Northwest Innovation Works Kalama methanol refinery

Ecology's role in Kalama methanol permitting process


Your local government may initiate enforcement actions when development does not comply with permit requirements or is built without required permits.

We may work with local governments to enforce shoreline regulations by issuing cease and desist orders and imposing penalties on those who fail to comply with these orders. More information about enforcement can be found in our guide on Enforcing the Shoreline Management Act.

Need more information?

Shoreline permitting can be complicated, so check out our Shoreline Permitting Manual for more information about permits, exemptions, and the permitting process.