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What is the jurisdiction of Washington State and local governments under the Shoreline Management Act?


Washington State has jurisdiction in state waters from the shore out to three nautical miles (n.m.). The regulatory function of a local Shoreline Master Program depends on a local jurisdiction’s geographic boundaries. For counties on Washington’s Pacific Coast, westward regulatory limit of a Shoreline Master Program is the same as the extent of Washington’s state waters — three n.m. offshore.
The federal government maintains jurisdiction from 3 to 200 n.m. offshore. The Shoreline Management Act, Ocean Resources Management Act, and the Ocean Management Guidelines do not authorize local shoreline permitting in federal waters and do not authorize local policies for federal waters or federal agencies.
The planning function of a SMP may look beyond the territorial limits of shorelines of the state to adjacent lands (see also SMP Handbook Chapter 2: Shoreline Management Overview, Chapter 5: Shoreline Jurisdiction and Chapter 7: Inventory and Characterization). For example, the shoreline inventory and characterization for an SMP should include consideration of ecosystem-wide processes and functions that pertain to shorelines, but which are often outside of shoreline jurisdiction.

For more information, read the Department of Ecology’s summary of the Coastal Zone Management Act.

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