Coastal zone management federal consistency review

Under Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program, activities that affect any land use, water use, or natural resources in the coastal zone must comply with the enforceable policies found within the four state laws and their implementing regulations that make up our program and policies.

The federal Coastal Zone Management Act authorizes states with approved Coastal Zone Management Programs to review federal activities, projects which require a federal permit, or projects using federal funding proposed in a state's coastal zone. The state review process for these federal actions is known as federal consistency, and serves as a powerful tool to manage coastal activities and resources. The process also helps guide coordination and cooperation with federal agencies.
Generally, federal consistency requires that federal actions within and outside the coastal zone, which have reasonably foreseeable effects on any coastal use (land or water) or natural resource of the coastal zone, be consistent with the enforceable policies of a state's federally-approved Coastal Zone Management Program. The specific type of federal action will determine whether a consistency determination or certification is required.
  • Activities undertaken by a federal agency
  • Activities which require federal approval
  • Activities which use federal funding
Each category has different federal consistency requirements as discussed below.
Activities undertaken by a federal agency

A federal activity is any development or function performed by or for a federal agency. Examples include adopting a management plan for a wildlife sanctuary, constructing nearshore facilities, and dredging new channels. The federal agency must determine if its project or activity has any reasonably foreseeable direct and indirect effects on Washington’s coastal uses or resources. If the federal agency determines that the project will have such effects, then it must prepare a “consistency determination” and submit it to Ecology.

In its consistency determination, the federal agency must describe the potential coastal effects and explain how the project or activity is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program’s enforceable policies. The applicant is encouraged to submit the determination at the earliest time possible in the planning process, but it must be submitted at least 90 days prior to final approval of the federal agency activity.

Ecology has 60 days from the receipt of the consistency determination to issue its decision. If Ecology does not respond within that time by either: concurring with the federal agency’s determination; attaching conditions to the concurrence decision; or objecting to the federal agency’s determination, then the project may proceed.

Activities which require federal approval Activities using federal funding

Policies used for Federal Consistency Review

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)

State Water Pollution Control Act (NOAA approval: March 2017)

Washington State Clean Air Act (NOAA approval: November 2017)

  State Ocean Resources Management Act (NOAA approval 2001)

Our program is currently in the process of updating our enforceable policies. Please contact us for the current list and guidance.

Get involved

A public notice is often issued jointly by us and the federal agency issuing the permit or license; otherwise we will issue a separate public notice for the project. Each public notice will include a comment period during which the public, federal, state, and local agencies, tribes, and other interested parties can submit comments on the proposed project.

Comments can be submitted by mail or email and will be made part of the official record.