Shoreline Master Program

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State Shoreline Management Act

The Washington State Shoreline Management Act of 1971 is based on the philosophy that the shorelines of the state are among the most valuable and fragile of its natural resources, and that there is great concern throughout the state related to their utilization, protection, restoration, and preservation.

Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program, Adopted May 29, 2018

From the Department of Ecology,  Shoreline Management Act

There are three basic SMA policy areas: Shoreline use, environmental protection, and public access. Shoreline use The SMA establishes the concept of preferred shoreline uses. These uses are consistent with controlling pollution, preventing damage to the natural environment, or are unique to or dependent upon use of Washington's shorelines. Preferred uses include:

  • Single-family residences
  • Ports
  • Shoreline recreational uses
  • Water-dependent industrial and commercial developments
  • Other developments providing public access opportunities

As much as possible, shorelines should be reserved for "water-oriented" uses, including those that are "water-dependent," "water-related," and for "water-enjoyment."

Preferred uses for shorelines of statewide significance are designed to:

  • Recognize and protect statewide over local interests
  • Preserve the natural character of the shoreline
  • Result in long-term rather than short-term benefits
  • Protect shoreline resources and environment
  • Increase public access to publicly-owned shoreline areas
  • Expand recreational shoreline opportunities for the public

Environmental protection The SMA is intended to protect shoreline natural resources including the land, vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic habitats against adverse environmental effects. All allowed uses are required to offset adverse environmental impacts as much as possible and preserve the natural character and aesthetics of the shoreline.

Public access

Shoreline Master Programs must include a public access element, including provisions for public access to publicly-owned areas. They are to include an element for preserving and enlarging recreational opportunities.

The SMA also implements the common law Public Trust Doctrine. This doctrine conveys that the waters of the state are a public resource for the purposes of navigation, conducting commerce, fishing, recreation, and similar uses. In addition, the Public Trust Doctrine is not invalidated by private ownership of the underlying land. The doctrine limits public and private use of tidelands and other shorelands to protect the public's right to access waters of the state.

Cowlitz County Shoreline Management Master Program

In compliance with State requirements, Cowlitz County adopted a Shoreline Management Master Program in 1977. The current SMP was adopted on May 29th, 2018. The goals, objectives and policies of the Program apply only to development of shoreline areas as defined in the Shoreline Management Act. When considering development along, or any use of, shorelines of statewide significance, special attention is given to ensure that the state and regional interests are reflected, as well as local needs and desires. County Planning staff are available to discuss the permitting process for development within Shorelines.

Shoreline Management Master Program Update
Cowlitz County is required by statute to update it's Shoreline Master Program periodically. After a comprehensive and lengthy update process, the SMP was adopted on May 29th, 2018.

Cowlitz County SMP - May 29th, 2018 Update

Interested in finding out more about the SMP Update process? Below are some of the documents considered and generated during the update. For more information, please contact the Department.

Conditional Approval Letter from Ecology
Attachment A - Findings and Conclusions
Attachment B - Required Changes
Attachment C - Recommended Changes
Restoration Plan
Restoration Plan Appendix A
Cowlitz County SMP for BoCC Review 12/20/2016
SEPA DNS 16-11-4607