Washington Coastal Zone Management

Washington’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program is administered by the Washington State Department of Ecology. We are committed to preserving and protecting coastal resources, balancing uses, and supporting thriving coastal communities. Our staff work with cities and counties, state and federal agencies, Tribes, and stakeholders across Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Washington Pacific Coast to meet the goals of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act through a comprehensive approach to coastal resource management.

Management activities

We meet the goals of the Coastal Zone Management Act through a collaborative and comprehensive approach for managing our state's coastal and ocean resources. This work requires us to balance the often competing — and occasionally conflicting — demands of coastal resources use, economic development, and conservation. We work with partners to achieve this mission and focus our efforts on these key priorities:

Partnership and environmental justice

In carrying out the above activities, we prioritize robust partnerships and close collaboration and consultation with Tribes, local governments, state and federal agencies, and coastal stakeholders. We are committed to centering and advancing environmental justice and equity through our management activities, technical assistance, and funding decisions to create environmental benefits, reduce environmental harms, and more equitably distribute expenditures to support thriving coastal communities. We do this work in alignment with the Department of Ecology's Strategic Plan and Washington's Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act.

The Washington CZM Program provides staff support for a number of groups and forums that focus on community and stakeholder engagement, partnership and consensus building, and the exchange of information related to the management of coastal and ocean lands and resources. These groups provide opportunities for management partners, stakeholders, and members of the public to participate in and provide input on our work. This includes:

The CZM program applies to all areas of 15 coastal counties, and extends three nautical miles into the Pacific Ocean, excluding federal and tribal lands.

Washington's coastal zone

Washington's CZM program applies to the state's coastal zone, which is comprised of the 15 coastal counties with marine shorelines, including Wahkiakum. The coastal zone includes all lands and waters within these coastal counties, as well as submerged lands seaward out to three nautical miles (about 3.5 miles). The coastal zone is not limited to areas under Shoreline Management Act jurisdiction.

Excluded from Washington's coastal zone are tribal lands and lands the federal government owns, leases, holds in trust, or otherwise has the sole discretion to determine their use. These "excluded federal lands" include, but are not limited to: 

  • Tribal lands held in trust by the federal government.
  • Military reservations or other defense installations (e.g., Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Air Base Whidbey Island).
  • All lands within national parks (e.g., Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park).
  • National forest lands and national recreation areas owned or leased by the federal government.
By participating in this voluntary federal-state partnership, we work with NOAA's Office for Coastal Management to design and administer a program that best reflects our state needs and local circumstances. Our federally-approved program is important because it means we are eligible for federal coastal zone funding which support core management activities and special enchantment projects. Having a federally-approved program also provides the state the authority to review federal actions for consistency with the enforceable policies of the program. The federal consistency provisions of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act require that federal actions, including the issuance of federal licenses and permits be consistent with the enforceable policies of Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program.

Our partnership with the federal government enhances our work by creating a mechanism for better agency coordination and collaboration, and it provides additional funding that strengthens our capacity to partner with, offer assistance to, and plan for the future needs of coastal communities.
Washington does not have a stand-alone program for coastal zone management. Instead, we fulfill our national Coastal Zone Management Act requirements through a network of state laws and regulations. The structure and policies of our program allow us to manage coastal resources in a more locally relevant and comprehensive way that fits our state priorities. In 1976, Washington became the first state in the nation to receive federal approval of a Coastal Zone Management Program.
In partnership with NOAA's Office for Coastal Management, we periodically perform a program evaluation to assess the effectiveness of Washington's coastal management efforts and develop five-year strategic program enhancement plans that meet both state and broader national interests.