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  • Hundreds of islanders arriving on the interisland ferry to speak up against coal export. Photo by Kelly Andrews
  • FRIENDS efforts work to protect San Juan County's coastal and upland wetlands
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Defending our Shorelines
Land Use
Critical Areas Ordinance Update
Shoreline Master Program Update
Safe Shipping through the Salish Sea
Endangered Species




Shoreline Master Program Update

FRIENDS' Spring 2013 SMP Primer

Click here to download the PDF.



The Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is a comprehensive shoreline land-use plan ratified by the state Shoreline Management Act in 1972. To regulate shoreline development, the state law requires local governments and the Department of Ecology to mutually regulate shoreline development, use, and protection.

The Shoreline Management Act applies to lakes greater than 20 acres, marine shorelines, land within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark of such waterbodies, and their associated wetlands.

The law has three main purposes:

Encourage reasonable and orderly development of shorelines, with an emphasis on water-dependent and related uses that control pollution and prevent damage to the natural environment.

Protect the natural character of Washington shorelines, including the land, vegetation, wildlife, and shoreline environment.

Promote public access and provide opportunities to enjoy views and recreational activities in shoreline areas.


Where are we now?

This past summer, the San Juan County Planning Commission completed its review of the draft SMP and forwarded it to the County Council for their review and adoption. The Council has begun working with Planning Department staff to finalize the SMP. Upon adoption, the County will send the SMP to the Washington Department of Ecology for approval.

In 2013, FRIENDS continued to provide scientific data for the update’s Shoreline Characterization and Restoration Plan elements and turned to the draft SMP language. In May, FRIENDS conveyed to the County concerns about provisions like the following:

(1) requirements that mooring buoys avoid eelgrass while allowing docks to shade it;

(2) newly authorized industrial development in critical areas;

(3) authorization for desalination plants for new shoreline subdivisions;

(4) authorization for the removal of up to 79% of the tree canopy cover in most of the shoreline;

5) setbacks now measured from the shoreline rather than the inland top of the bank;

(6) the wholesale incorporation of the CAO provisions [see CAO section above for flaws in the shoreline buffers];

(7) authorization of impacts in return for a pledge to compensate for those impacts; and

(8) authorization to eliminate shoreline buffers and setbacks based on a neighbors’ outdated setbacks.


Questions to consider for public input workshops/hearings:

How and where would you like to see shoreline commercial and residential development?

What views are important to you to protect? What areas are important for public access? What access, transportation, water quality, others)?

What are your perceptions of how the county’s shorelines are currently managed?

What do you like and/or dislike about the county’s ability to enforce regulations?

What, if any, changes have you noticed over the last 5-15 years (public access, habitat, use, enforcement. etc.)?

In shoreline areas do you have specific goals or ideas for commercial development, Residential development, habitat protection/restoration, public access?

For more information: or 

Colin Maycock, Senior Planner, SJC Dept. of Comm. Dev and Planning…
360-370-7573 or 


Washington State Department of Ecology’s Citizens Guide to Shoreline Master Programs SMP overview, frequently asked questions, publications 

PO Box 1344, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 Phone: (360) 378-2319, Fax: (360) 378-2324 © 2013


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