At the LWVWA Convention in 2019, Washington state League members voted to undertake a new study on shorelines. The proposal stated: "A new study is needed to extend the 2001 work on p. 26 of PIA [Program in Action] 2017-2019. The study should gather data on current shoreline conditions, projections, and issues." This report is the culmination of that study.
LWVWA Study Committee: Ann Aagaard, Betsy Cooper, Phyllis Farrell, Martin Gibbons, Shelley Kneip, Anne Van Sweringen
Reading Committee: Raelene Gold, David Peeler, Alison Wells
Technical Reviewers: Karen Fraser, Lisa Randlett, Abbey Wellmeyer
LWVWA Liaison: Lunell Haught
This study concerns Washington state’s Shoreline Management Act (SMA, also called “the Act” throughout), RCW 90.58 and its implementation. The SMA was enacted over 50 years ago and was one of the first environmental regulations adopted in the state of Washington. The Act has been supplemented by other environmental laws and regulations over the years, but it remains a primary regulation for protecting shorelines. The statute defines shorelines as coastal shorelines, shorelines of rivers and streams with a mean annual flow of 20 cubic feet per second (cfs), shorelines of lakes that are 20 acres or greater in size, and their associated wetlands. The SMA applies landward 200 feet from the shoreline’s ordinary high-water mark (OHWM).
In conducting this study, a committee of the League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA) studied the Act, implementing regulations, and related court and administrative decisions concerning the SMA. The committee also met with officials from the Washington State Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”) who are responsible for implementing the Act and overseeing local government implementation. Finally, the committee interviewed 18 individuals with varying experience with the SMA in differing aspects of its application, including local government planners and elected officials, state agency representatives, bulkhead builders, port officials, environmental groups, property rights groups, shellfish industry persons, tribal government representatives, and others.
The committee identified 14 issues that impede the Act’s ability to achieve its intended goals and its ability to respond to ever increasing challenges, including, among other factors, climate change, and population growth:
The LWVWA uses an established consensus process in developing positions on studies. This study is the first step in that process. Next, local Leagues will meet to develop consensus on the issues raised in the study, and then adopt a written statement of position on the issues, which the LWVWA Board approves.