Ocean management

Washington's ocean resources provide recreational opportunities, maintain cultural identities, and support a stunning array of wildlife. They support many different uses that benefit the economies of nearby communities as well as the entire state. Washington residents depend on ocean resources, now and into the future.
It is important for Washington to protect, understand, and manage these ocean resources. We are working with partners across the state to solve critical issues facing these resources and coastal communities. We provide community assistance, collaborate on ocean management, and lead and guide ocean planning and policy.

Ocean Resources Management Act

The Ocean Resources Management Act’s (ORMA) jurisdiction extends from Cape Flattery in Clallam County south to Pacific County at Cape Disappointment, and seaward from the mean higher high tide line to the state boundary. Special attention is given to the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay estuaries.

ORMA describes policies and establishes guidelines for state and local authorities when reviewing projects affecting Washington's coastal waters. ORMA’s policy is to protect Washington's valuable and fragile coastal waters, seabed, and shorelines while, at the same time, recognizing that ocean- and marine-based industries and activities such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and marine transportation are important for Washington's future.

ORMA provides criteria for uses and activities that:

  • Require federal, state, or local government permits or other approvals, and
  • Will adversely impact renewable resources, marine life, fishing, aquaculture, recreation, navigation, air or water quality, or other existing ocean or coastal uses.

The Ocean Management Guidelines at WAC 173-26-360 and in Chapter 43.143 RCW provide further guidance and information for general ocean uses, as well as those relating to specific ocean uses such as oil and gas development, transportation, and mining.

Federal consistency

Federal consistency is required for proposed activities undertaken by a federal agency or those activities requiring a federal license or permit with foreseeable effects to Washington’s coastal resources and uses through the federal consistency provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act and Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program. The federal consistency requirement applies to federal actions, including leases or other authorizations, with reasonably foreseeable direct and indirect effects on any coastal use or resource of Washington’s coastal zone, and can be applied to waters beyond the state boundary.

We are currently working on guidance to assist applicants in demonstrating consistency with ORMA and the Ocean Management Guidelines. Until then, for more information about the applicability of ORMA to a proposed activity or how to prepare an ORMA Consistency Analysis, please email Casey Dennehy or call 360-688-0142.

Sea stacks along the Washington coastline