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Land Use Ordinances

Shoreline Master Program

The Shoreline Master Program governs uses and activities on marine (salt water) shorelines, lakes and rivers throughout the county.  Thurston County is currently updating its Shoreline Master Program.

Specifically, the Shoreline Master Program applies to:

  • Type S streams (large rivers and their major tributaries).*
  • Marine (salt water) shorelines.shoreline
  • Lakes (lakes are defined as having 20 acres or more of open water).
  • Portions of the 100-year floodplain are also regulated under a different ordinance.

Whether or not your proposal requires a permit, it still must comply with the regulations contained in the Shoreline Master Program.

*"Type S" refers to streams and water bodies that are designated "Shorelines of the State" as defined in Chapter 90.58.030 RCW.  "Shorelines of the State" generally refers to segments of streams where the mean annual flow is more than 20 cubic feet per second, marine shorelines, and lakes 20 acres or more in size PLUS any other water body that is classified as a “Shoreline of Statewide Significance.” A Shoreline of Statewide Significance is generally rivers or streams with a mean annual flow of 1,000 cubic feet per second or greater. Examples of Type S water bodies include the Deschutes, Chehalis, Black, Skookumchuck and Nisqually rivers and their larger tributaries.

Confused?  Please call us or stop by the Building Development Center.

Certain Shorelines Are Regulated Under a Different Ordinance

Streams are also regulated under a different ordinance: the Thurston County Critical Areas Ordinance.  In cases where an area is regulated under both the Shoreline Master Program and the Critical Areas Ordinance, the most protective requirements will apply until Thurston County updates its Shoreline Master Program -- at which point the Shoreline Master Program will take precedence.

How Do I Know Whether I Have a Regulated Shoreline on My Property?

Your property is subject to shoreline regulations if it is located within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark of a water body identified in the Shoreline Master Program (see bullets above) and/or within the 100 year floodplain.

The best way to find out if your property is within this regulated area is to check a shoreline map, available at the Building Development Center or through Thurston County's GeoData website.  It is important to note that Geodata maps are intended to be used as a guide and do not provide a definitive designation.

What Exactly Are the Requirements for My Shoreline?

Thurston County is in the process of amending its Shoreline Master Program.  Once you know whether your property contains a shoreline regulated under the Shoreline Master Program, please call the Permit Assistance Center or stop by to talk to a staff professional about rules for building and using the land.

The types of activities regulated by the Shoreline Master Program include home building, land clearing, and installing or replacing bulkheads, stairways, docks and boathouses, to name a few.


Contact Us

Thurston County Building Development Center, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia, WA 98502-6045.
Phone: (360) 786-5490. TTY/TDD call 711 or 1-800-833-6388  E-mail: permit@co.thurston.wa.us.


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