The Washington State Department of Ecology has approved the town of Steilacoom’s comprehensively updated shoreline master program, which governs the protection, use and development of 2.6 miles of marine shoreline and 1.1 miles of stream shores in the town.
Steilacoom is one of nearly 80 local governments that have completed their updates. The new master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.
“Steilacoom’s shoreline master program helps protect the economic and environmental health of our waters, including Chambers Creek and Puget Sound,” said Washington State Department of Ecology Southwest Region Shorelands Program Manager Paula Ehlers. “Our shorelines make Washington a great place to live. Working together to protect our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as our children and future generations is important.”
About 150 cities and counties statewide are in the process of, or soon will be, updating or crafting their master programs under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act. Shoreline master programs are the cornerstone of the act. The law requires cities and counties with regulated shorelines to develop and periodically update their locally tailored programs to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses, and protect the public’s right to public lands and waters.
Steilacoom’s process brought various local interests to the table to work collaboratively. The shoreline master program process began with an inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions that was completed with consultant support.
Steilacoom’s shoreline master program provides shoreline regulations that are consistent with the town’s growth management planning and zoning, urban forestry ordinance and critical areas ordinances; encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring such as bulkheads; includes a restoration plan showing where and how voluntary improvements in water and upland areas can enhance the local shoreline environment; and helps support the broader initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.
Under state law, the local shoreline plan must be approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology before taking effect. It then becomes part of the state shoreline master program. If needed, the department will help defend the town’s shoreline program against legal challenges.
All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014. They are following regulations adopted by the Washington State Department of Ecology in 2003. The regulations resulted from a negotiated settlement among 58 different parties including business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the courts.
More information is available online here.