Washington Coastal Zone Management Program & policies

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 the state's coastal resources and how they're managed.

Program framework

While the federal Coastal Zone Management Act includes basic requirements for state coastal management programs, the law gives states the flexibility they need to design programs that best address local challenges.

Washington does not have a stand-alone law for coastal zone management. To develop Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program, we relied on our existing framework of state laws and regulations (such as the state Shoreline Management and Water Pollution Control acts) to address coastal zone issues rather than develop new, all-encompassing state legislation.

Because the state has a federally-approved Coastal Zone Management Program, we are eligible for federal grants to augment the state’s management activities to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore or enhance these resources for current and future generations.

Federal consistency review

Having a federally-approved Coastal Zone Management Program also gives Washington a role in the federal agency decision-making process for activities that could affect the state’s coastal resources and uses.

These federal consistency provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act require that federal actions, including the issuance of federal licenses and permits, be consistent with the enforceable policies of the Washington Coastal Zone Management Program.

The federal consistency review process enhances coordination and cooperation between the state, federal agencies, and applicants for federal licenses and permits. Generally, federal consistency applies to federal actions within and outside the coastal zone that could have reasonably foreseeable impacts on land, water, and natural resources of the coastal zone. Washington's coastal zone encompasses the fifteen coastal counties.

Under federal consistency regulations, there are different requirements for activities conducted by federal agencies, those authorized by federal agencies, and federal financial assistance awards.

Program changes

State Coastal Zone Management Programs must submit updates to their enforceable policies to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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 to NOAA 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.

NOAA maintains a Program Change Portal that includes documentation for all of Washington's previously approved program changes as well as those currently under review. Changes pending approval or recently approved by NOAA are also summarized below.

Recent program changes

2022 Federal Consistency Procedures Program Change

Ecology submitted a request to NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM) seeking approval of Program Changes to the 2001 Federal Consistency Procedures, along with changes to the List of Federal Licenses and Permits from the 2001 list. On Sept.12, 2022, OCM approved the submitted changes. These will be incorporated into Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program.  

We will use these Program Changes to review and make decisions. The two forms applicants must use when submitting their projects to us for federal licenses, permits and funding assistance are included with the procedures. We also updated our List of Federal Licenses and Permits outlining the various federal authorizations applicants receive for projects we want to review. While we deleted several authorizations, we added five more, including authorizations issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Surface Transportation Board.

View documents related to the Federal Consistency Procedures Program Change WA-2022-1 including OCM's approval letter..