The federal Coastal Zone Management Act gives states the primary role in managing their coastal zone. In 1976, Washington was the first state to receive federal approval of a Coastal Zone Management Program by preparing a document describing its coastal resources and how they are managed.
The federal Coastal Zone Management Act authorizes states with approved Coastal Zone Management Programs including Washington to review federal activities proposed in a state’s coastal zone. A state’s review process for these federal actions is known as "federal consistency." It is a powerful tool for managing coastal activities and resources, and facilitate cooperation and coordination with federal agencies.
Generally, federal consistency requires that federal actions within and outside the coastal zone that could have reasonably foreseeable impacts on land, water and natural resources within the coastal zone be consistent with a state's federally-approved Coastal Management Program. The type of federal action will determine whether a consistency determination or certification is required and what procedures must be followed to demonstrate consistency with Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes "enforceable policies" as state laws and regulations containing standards specific enough to help an applicant determine what must be followed when undertaking a project or development in the coastal zone.
States must submit their coastal zone management policies to NOAA, who determines whether or not to approve a state's policies as part of a state’s Coastal Zone Management Program. Washington was the first state in the nation to receive federal approval for its Coastal Zone Management Program.
In Washington, only certain state laws and regulations are considered enforceable policies. Since NOAA has approved our policies, we can apply them to certain projects to ensure compliance with our Coastal Zone Management Program and fulfill federal Coastal Zone Management Act priorities.
Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program includes enforceable policies within the following state authorities:
State Shoreline Management Act (NOAA approval: February 2016)
States with Coastal Zone Management Programs such as Washington must submit updates to their enforceable policies to NOAA. These program changes include minor, non-substantial changes or significant changes to a program's structure, management, or rules. Most changes to Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program have been minor, non-substantial updates.
We have submitted changes to our Coastal Zone Management Program since 1986 and continue to make changes as laws and regulations are amended. As we submit program changes, we issue public notices and provide information to interested parties.