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 (CZMP), 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 15 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. To receive these public notices as well as other notices related to federal consistency reviews and major CZM program activities, please subscribe to this list. 

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.

Ecology recently submitted a program change to NOAA requesting to remove the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Section 10 Letters of Permission (LOP) from our List of Federal Licenses and Permits, with the exception of LOP projects that require an individual Section 401 Water Quality Certification. On Feb. 16, 2024, NOAA approved the submitted changes for incorporation into Washington's CZMP. More details can be found on NOAA's Coastal Zone Management Act Program Changes website (see file number WA-2023-1).