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Shoreline Master Program Update

Understanding the Master Shoreline Program

What is the Shoreline Management Act?

The state's Shoreline Management Act is the law that requires cities and counties to establish Shoreline Master Programs. The Act was approved by the Legislature in 1971 and overwhelmingly approved by public initiative in 1972. Under the SMA, each county and city that plans under the Growth Management Act is required to prepare a shoreline master program in accordance with shoreline guidelines issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Shoreline Management Act has an overarching goal to "prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state's shorelines."

What is a Shoreline Master Program?

Thurston County's Shoreline Master Program is a combined planning and regulatory document that contains policies, goals, and specific land-use regulations for shorelines. The program balances development, public access, and shoreline protection. The Shoreline Master Program update includes marine shorelines, rivers with a flow greater than 20 cubic feet per second, lakes larger than 20 acres, upland areas within 200 feet of these water bodies and the floodplains and wetlands associated with these shorelines.

  • Click here to read or download the current program from 1990. 
  • Click here to download a map (PDF, 1.3MB) of the current shoreline jurisdiction and environment designations from 1990. The type of shoreline (ie, "rural" or "conservancy") is very important, because it dictates which regulations apply within that area.

Why is Thurston County updating its Shoreline Master Program?olympia shoreline

In 2003, the state Legislature established funding, timelines, and guidelines requiring all cities and counties to update their local Shoreline Master Programs prepared under the Washington State Shoreline Management Act. The new shoreline guidelines passed in 2003 set a higher level of environmental protection for shorelines in the state and a goal of "no net loss" of shoreline function. The original deadline for Thurston County update was 2011, but work on the update continues.

What about the cities in Thurston County?

The Cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater also must update their policies and regulations for shorelines. Thurston County is coordinating closely with the cities throughout its update process.

How will the SMP affect me?

SMP regulations may affect you if you live or own property near one of the shorelines in Thurston County, if you boat or fish there, or if you use trails or parks nearby.  Those interested in environmental issues such as wildlife habitat, water quality or vegetation management may also be interested in the SMP update.

For additional frequently asked questions:

Please see the Washington Department of Ecology's Shoreline Master Program Frequently Asked Questions website

Understanding terminology or "What do you mean when you say...?"

Protect shoreline natural resources

  • refers to the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the water of Washington State and aquatic life

Promote public access

  • the public's opportunity to enjoy the physical and aesthetic qualities of natural shorelines of Washington State shall be preserved to the greatest extent feasible consistent with the overall best interest of the state and the people generally

Encourage water-dependent uses

  • uses shall be preferred which are consistent with control of pollution and prevention of damage to the natural environment or are unique to or dependent upon use of Washington State's shorelines

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