- Why is the City of Fife updating the Shoreline Master Program now?
- What is the process at the State level for updating the Shoreline Master Program?
- When did Fife start work on the Shoreline Master Program update and what has been done so far?
- What happens next in the Shoreline Master Program update process and when will it be completed?
- What does public access to the shorelines of the state mean?
- Is “best available science” used in developing the Shoreline Master Program update?
- What does the Shoreline Master Program update goal of “no net loss” mean?
- How is the Shoreline Master Program update related to Fife’s Critical Areas Ordinance?
- Do the new guidelines require restoration?
- Why is the Wapato Creek not included within the Shoreline Master Program for the City of Fife?
Why is the City of Fife updating the Shoreline Master Program now?
Most local governments have not updated their local shoreline master programs comprehensively since the mid 1970s and Fife’s 2005 revision has not been officially recognized by the state. Fife’s old shoreline master program needs to be reviewed and updated to better address current conditions, consider new science regarding the shoreline environment, and to better align with other related laws.
In 2003, the state Legislature set up a timetable for local governments to update their local shoreline master programs. The State Legislature appointed the Department of Ecology to be responsible for ensuring that statewide policies are upheld and implemented when local shoreline master programs are adopted. Under Washington’s Shoreline Management Act, a locally approved program must meet state guidelines.
What is the process at the State level for updating the Shoreline Master Program?
The Washington State Department of Ecology provided guidelines to local jurisdictions outlining the essential elements their individual shoreline master programs must address. Department of Ecology also provides financial support, technical assistance, guidance materials and regular training in support of local updates. The guidelines set minimum procedural and substantive standards for local governments to use in updating their programs.
Department of Ecology and State Growth Management Hearings Boards use the guidelines to review and approve local shoreline master program updates. The 2003 Shoreline Master Program guidelines were the result of a negotiated settlement between business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Department of Ecology, and the courts. Also in 2003, the state Legislature provided funding and established a mandatory schedule for local shoreline program updates for all jurisdictions extending through 2014.
After Ecology receives the local program it is reviewed to determine if it complies with state guidelines requirements, the department can approve it as submitted by the local jurisdiction, approve it with changes, or reject it. Once Ecology approves a local shoreline master program, it becomes part of the statewide shoreline “master” program. At that point, local jurisdictions are responsible for carrying out shoreline development ordinances and deciding how the code applies to individual projects.
When did Fife start work on the Shoreline Master Program update and what has been done so far?
The city started the process in 2005 and that plan is being used as a starting point for this update in order to have a completed Shoreline Master Plan for Fife. So far a Public Participation program has been completed along with Phase 1. The Planning Commission has been briefed and reviewed the Public Participation program and Department of Ecology is currently reviewing documents DRAFT documents can be found here. The City has hired Grette Associates LLC to assist in developing the draft documents for the SMP.
What happens next in the Shoreline Master Program update process and when will it be completed?
Once all of the phases have been completed per the contract with Department of Ecology the City Council will need to adopt the plan with a set of development regulations. Then, the Department of Ecology will review and approve the plan and regulations.
What does public access to the shorelines of the state mean?
Identify public access needs and opportunities within the jurisdiction and explore actions to enhance shoreline recreation facilities, as described in WAC173-26-221(4). Public access includes the ability of the general public to reach, touch, and enjoy the water’s edge, to travel on the waters of the state, and to view the water and the shoreline from adjacent locations.
Is “best available science” used in developing the Shoreline Master Program update?
No. Current science is the basis for shoreline master programs while “best available science” is a term from the state Growth Management Act, and does not apply to shoreline master programs. Shoreline Management Act requires use of the “most current, accurate and complete scientific and technical information”, as the basis for decision making.
What does the Shoreline Master Program update goal of “no net loss” mean?
The new environmental protection standard for updated shoreline master programs is “no-net-loss of shoreline ecological functions.” While restoration of degraded areas is encouraged, this does not mean all shoreline areas are required to be made “pristine” or returned to pre-settlement conditions. Local governments are required to inventory current shoreline conditions – including identifying existing ecological processes and functions that influence physical and biological conditions.
When a shoreline program is adopted, existing ecological conditions on the ground must be protected while development of shoreline areas is continued in accordance with adopted regulations. This is accomplished by avoiding or minimizing the introduction of impacts to ecological functions that result from new shoreline development.
How is the Shoreline Master Program update related to Fife’s Critical Areas Ordinance?
A recent state Supreme Court decision (Futurewise v. Anacortes) stated that the shoreline master program solely regulates the shorelines and critical areas covered by the program, once the Department of Ecology approves it. Rather than repeat the work local governments have already done developing their critical areas ordinances under the state Growth Management Act, relevant portions of existing critical areas ordinances may be placed in updated shoreline master programs under the Shoreline Management Act.
Do the new guidelines require restoration?
Local governments must plan for restoration in their shoreline master programs. Restoration is not a direct requirement for private development. Local government must consider its restoration needs, identify resources available to conduct restoration, prioritize restoration actions, and make sure development activities don’t interfere with planned restoration efforts in the community and vice versa. A shoreline master program may include incentives for developers to invest in shoreline restoration.
Why is the Wapato Creek not included within the Shoreline Master Program for the City of Fife?
As defined in RCW90.58.030(2)(e) "Shorelines" means all of the water areas of the state, including reservoirs, and their associated shorelands, together with the lands underlying them; except (i) shorelines of statewide significance; (ii) shorelines on segments of streams upstream of a point where the mean annual flow is twenty cubic feet per second or less and the wetlands associated with such upstream segments; and (iii) shorelines on lakes less than twenty acres in size and wetlands associated with such small lakes.
There are also “Shorelines of statewide significance” and Wapato Creek does not meet the flow requirement as defined in the state law and is not considered a shoreline of the state so it is not included within the Shoreline Master Program.