Snohomish County’s Shoreline Master Program Update Gets Nod (USA)

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved Snohomish County’s updated shoreline master program.

The county’s updated program replaces its 1974 shoreline program – a set of guidelines that will result in significant improvements in the protection, use, development and restoration of the county’s estimated 2,000 miles of freshwater and marine shorelines.

The update combines local plans for future development and preservation with new development ordinances and related permitting requirements. The update also significantly improves alignment of shoreline codes with environmental protection and with the county’s current comprehensive land-use plan and other codes.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said, “The adoption of our updated Shoreline Master Program is a tremendous accomplishment for Snohomish County. It was truly a coordinated effort between the county, our citizens and many key stakeholders. This plan ensures that the goals of the Shoreline Management Act are being met and that our shorelines will continue to be protected for this and future generations.”

The revised master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.

Ecology shorelands program manager Gordon White said, “This is a great accomplishment by Snohomish County. The updated shoreline master program will benefit the county’s extensive and diverse freshwater and marine shoreline areas both economically and environmentally. I also greatly appreciate the countless hours of collaboration among county officials and people representing a variety of interests. Healthy shorelines contribute much of what makes Washington a great place to live.”

About 200 cities and counties statewide are – or soon will be – updating or developing their master programs, under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act.

Shoreline master programs are the cornerstone of the act. The law requires cities and counties with regulated shorelines to develop and periodically update their locally tailored programs to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses, and protect the public’s right to public lands and waters.

Snohomish County brought diverse local interests to the table to plan and develop the update, beginning with a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. These groups included shoreline property owners, scientists, tribal representatives, environmental interest groups, and state and local resource agency staff.

Snohomish County’s shoreline master program:

Incorporates the county’s critical areas regulations, which include fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas and geologic hazard areas.

Protects habitat and water quality through regulations that apply to marine and freshwater shorelines.

Includes shoreline stabilization standards that promote more natural nonstructural options.

Provides a table to help explain what activities are permitted under each type of shoreline designation.

Includes a restoration plan showing where and how voluntary improvements in water and upland areas can enhance the local shoreline environment.

Helps support the broader initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.

State law requires Ecology to review each city and county shoreline program. Final Ecology approval makes the local program part of the state shoreline master program. The department will help defend Snohomish County’s shoreline program against legal challenges.

All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014. They are following regulations adopted by Ecology in 2003. The regulations resulted from a negotiated settlement among 58 different parties including business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology and the courts.


Dredging Today Staff, July 18, 2012