Shoreline & Growth Management Planning
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Shoreline & Growth Management Planning 

Shoreline & Growth Management Planning

The more than 2.6 million acres of DNR-managed state-owned aquatic lands include marine tidelands and the bedlands of the Pacific Coast, Hood Canal, Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and shorelands and bedlands of navigable lakes and rivers in Washington. DNR's management overlaps with the jurisdictions of counties, cities, and towns of the state that also manage aquatic resources under their Shoreline Master Programs and Comprehensive Plans. Due to this overlap in authority, it is critical that DNR collaborate with local governments as they conduct local planning activities.

Shoreline Management Act Planning
Washington's Shoreline Management Act, enacted in 1972, is designed to prevent the harm associated with an uncoordinated, piecemeal development of the state's shorelines. The Shoreline Management Act is administered as a cooperative effort: local jurisdictions develop and adopt shoreline master programs consistent with the act, which must be approved by Washington Department of Ecology. Other state agencies, public and municipal corporations review their own policies and regulations to achieve consistency with the act and the local shoreline master programs.

Washington's Shoreline Management Act gives preference to uses that:

  • Protect the quality of water and the natural environment;
  • Depend on proximity to the shoreline (water dependent uses); and
  • Preserve and enhance public access or increase recreational opportunities for the public along shorelines.

These goals are well aligned with the overarching legislated directives that guide DNR's management of state-owned aquatic lands. These directives, outlined in state law RCW 79.105.030, include:

  • Encouraging direct public use and access;
  • Fostering water-dependent uses;
  • Ensuring environmental protection;
  • Utilizing renewable resources; and
  • Generating revenue in a manner consistent with the four previous objectives.

To help ensure that DNR management is consistent with local planning conducted under the Shoreline Management Act, staff participate on local planning advisory groups and encourage local jurisdictions to include DNR early in their planning efforts.

This coordination is especially important at this time, as all local jurisdictions are required to update their shoreline master programs over the next ten years to incorporate new guidelines implemented by Washington Department of Ecology.

View an informational packet related to DNR management of state-owned aquatic lands as related to local Shoreline Management Act Planning (5,284KB PDF).

Growth Management Act Planning
The state Growth Management Act was passed in 1990 to help ensure a coordinated and planned approach to future growth in the state, while providing for the environment, sustainable economic development, and human health. The act is implemented at the local (county and city) level and overseen at the state level by the Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development. Cities and counties planning under the Growth Management Act must develop comprehensive plans that provide for 20 years of projected growth in the local jurisdiction. Further, cities and counties, whether fully planning under the Growth Management Act or not, must designate and protect critical areas:

  • Wetlands;
  • Aquifer recharge areas;
  • Frequently flooded areas;
  • Geologically hazardous areas; and
  • Fish and wildlife conservation areas.

Comprehensive plans and critical areas ordinances must be reviewed and updated, if necessary, every seven years. Between December 2004 and December 2007 all counties and cities in Washington are required to have reviewed and updated their Growth Management Act planning documents and development regulations.

The comprehensive plans and critical areas ordinances developed by local governments can include management provisions that relate to DNR-managed aquatic lands. Therefore, DNR seeks to work with local planning agencies as they update comprehensive plans and critical areas ordinances to ensure that DNR management and local planning is compatible. DNR reviews and provides comments on changes to local comprehensive plans and development regulations, with particular emphasis on critical areas ordinances. 

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Hugo Flores
Aquatic Resources Division


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