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King County shoreline plan approved

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

The shoreline program will result significantly improve the protection, use, development and restoration of 2,000 miles of shorelines and the water quality of many marine, river, lake, and stream shores in the county. The updated master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.

“We greatly appreciate the county’s work to reach this milestone,” said Geoff Tallent, Ecology’s regional shorelines program supervisor. “King County’s updated shoreline master program helps protect the economic and environmental health of a varied and complex mix of water bodies, including Puget Sound. Many organizations and individuals in communities countywide worked to make this a success that will protect our treasured shoreline resources now and for future generations.”

"These shoreline protections work together with our environmental agenda and our major land purchases, such as the Maury Island gravel site, to protect Puget Sound for future generations,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “None of these actions are fast or easy, and I thank the tireless activists, diligent scientists, and steadfast state resource agencies who keep us pulling in the right direction."

About 260 cities and counties statewide are, or soon will be, updating or crafting 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.

King County’s process brought diverse local interests to the table. These groups included waterfront property owners, scientists, non-profit organizations, tribal government representatives, and state and local resource agency staff.

The process began with a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. That information provided a basis for the updated shoreline master program adopted by the county.

The county’s shoreline master program:

 

  • Provides shoreline regulations that are integrated with the county’s growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.

 

Creates eight shorelines classifications to fit King County's varied shorelines.

 

Protects shorelines next to existing aquatic reserves.

 

Provides for uses that need to be located next to shorelines.

 

  • Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring.
  • 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.

 

Under state law, the local shoreline must receive approval from Ecology before taking effect.  It then becomes part of the state shoreline master program. The department will help defend the county’s shoreline program against legal challenges.

 

Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014, under 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.

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