Coastal zone management federal consistency review

Under Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program, federal actions that may affect any land use, water use, or natural resources in the coastal zone must be consistent with the enforceable policies found within four state laws, the state Marine Spatial Plan, 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 actions, which include federal agency activities and the issuance of federal permits and licenses. These federal consistency provisions provide states with a role in the federal decision-making process and enhance coordination and cooperation between states, federal agencies, and applicants.

Generally, federal consistency requires that federal actions within and outside the coastal zone, that may have reasonably foreseeable effects on any coastal use (land or water) or natural resource of the coastal zone, must 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 an applicant needs to submit a consistency determination or certification, specifically:

Each category has different federal consistency requirements as outlined below.

Any development project or other activity performed by or for a federal agency that may affect coastal uses or resources is subject to state review to determine if the proposed activity is consistent with the enforceable policies of the Washington Coastal Zone Management Program. Examples include adopting a management plan for a wildlife sanctuary, constructing nearshore facilities, dredging new channels, and providing federal funding directly to an applicant. The federal agency must determine if its project or activity has any reasonably foreseeable direct or 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.
A federal approval is any authorization, certification, license, permit, or other form of permission which a federal agency is empowered to issue to an applicant. Examples include U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Section 404 and Section 10 permits. For federal authorizations listed in the Washington Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), a federal agency cannot issue an approval unless Ecology agrees that the project is consistent with Washington’s enforceable policies. Activities requiring federal approval must be fully consistent with the program. 

For these activities, the applicant reviews the activity for compliance with the CZMP’s enforceable policies that are found in four state laws and their implementing regulations. Following the review, the applicant prepares a "federal consistency certification” describing the activity and how it is consistent with the CZMP’s applicable enforceable policies and submits it to Ecology. Ecology has six months from the receipt of the consistency certification to issue a decision either: concurring with the applicant’s finding of consistency; attaching conditions; or objecting. If Ecology does not act within the six months, the activity is presumed consistent. See the link below for a recommended form to assist you in demonstrating consistency with the Coastal Zone Management Program:

Policies used for Federal Consistency Review

"Enforceable policies" are described 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. NOAA has approved our enforceable policies, and we apply them to certain projects to ensure the consistency of federal actions with the enforceable policies of our Coastal Zone Management Program.

Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program includes enforceable policies within the following state authorities:

We are continually updating our enforceable policies. Any future changes will be available for public review and comment and posted on our CZM program announcements page.

Get involved

Often, Ecology and the federal agency issuing the permit or license will issue a joint public notice; 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.