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Washington Coastal Zone Consistency Certification (13-WA-c)

Information current as of 2019
In Washington, a person (“developer”) may need to obtain a Coastal Zone Certificate of Consistency (“Certificate of Consistency”) from the Washington Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”) for developments located within Washington’s coastal counties that involve federal activities, federal licenses or permits, and federal assistance programs. Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document. The Department of Ecology reviews certain development proposals to determine whether those projects are consistent with Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program (“WCZMP”) in order to protect the State’s coastal resources.


The WCZMP is part of the nation-wide Coastal Zone Management (“CZM”) Program established by the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (“CZMA”). The CZMA is a voluntary state-federal partnership, which encourages states to adopt their own management programs in order to meet the federal goals of protection, restoration, and appropriate development of coastal zone resources. Washington Coastal Zone Management Webpage. The national CZM Program is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and regulated pursuant to 16 U.S.C. §§ 1451 et seq., Coastal Zone Management and 15 C.F.R. §§ 930 et seq., Federal Consistency with Approved Coastal Management Programs.

The CZMA allows coastal states to develop a coastal management program, setting out enforceable policies that guide federal actions that effect coastal lands and waters. Once a state’s management program is approved, many projects authorized by a federal agency, including federally-licensed hydroelectric, transmission, and geothermal projects, must be consistent with the enforceable policies of the Coastal Management Program (CMP). 15 CFR Part 930, Subpart D; 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(3)(A).

The CZMA applies to both projects located within the State’s coastal areas and to projects located outside of the State’s coastal areas that would affect the State’s coastal resources or coastal land and water uses. See 15 CFR § 930.11. The CZMA defines “coastal zone” as “the coastal waters (including the lands therein and thereunder) and the adjacent shorelands (including the waters therein and thereunder), strongly influenced by each other and in proximity to the shorelines of the several coastal states, and includes islands, transitional and intertidal areas, salt marshes, wetlands, and beaches. The zone extends, in Great Lakes waters, to the international boundary between the United States and Canada and, in other areas, seaward to the outer limit of State title and ownership[.]” 16 U.S.C. § 1453(1).

In Washington, the CZMA is administered by the Department of Ecology pursuant to the State’s federally approved WCZMP. The Department of Ecology administers WCZMP primarily pursuant to Washington Shoreline Management Act of 1971 (R.C.W. § 90.58 et seq.), but also includes other enforceable policies. Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document.



Coastal Zone Consistency Certification Process

13-WA-c.1 to 13-WA-c.2 – Is the Activity in a County within Marine Shorelines or Will the Activity Impact a County with Marine Shorelines?

In Washington, a developer may need to obtain a Coastal Zone Certificate of Consistency (“Certificate of Consistency”) from the Washington Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”) for developments that impact coastal counties. Activities and development which involve federal action, federal licenses or permits, or federal funding require a Certificate of Consistency to confirm compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) from the Department of Ecology, if the activity is within or effects one of Washington’s 15 coastal counties.

Washington’s coastal zone for purposes of Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program (“WCZMP”) includes the 15 counties with marine shorelines: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, Wahkiakum, and Whatcom counties. The WCZMP applies to activities and development within the 15 counties as well as activities outside these counties, which may impact Washington’s coastal resources. Washington Department of Ecology – Coastal Zone Management Federal Consistency Webpage.


13-WA-c.3 – Is the Activity Undertaken by a Federal Agency, Require Federal Approval, or Use Federal Funding?

A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Consistency from the Department of Ecology, through a federal consistency review, for developments located within Washington’s coastal counties that involve federal activities, federal licenses or permits, and federal assistance programs. Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document.

Under WCZMP federal activities that affect land use, water use, or natural resources of the coastal zone must comply with the six laws identified in the Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document. The laws include:

Washington Department of Ecology – Coastal Zone Management Federal Consistency Webpage.

Project developments and activities affecting coastal resources, which involve the federal government are evaluated through a federal consistency review and require a Certificate of Consistence determination. Federal activities can trigger the federal consistency review process in three ways:

  1. If the activity is undertaken by a federal agency (i.e., constructing near shore facilities, dredging new channels – see Appendix E of Managing Washington’s Coast);
  2. If the activity requires a federal approval (i.e., authorization, Certificate of Consistency, approval, license, permit, or other form of permission which a federal agency may issue an applicant – see Appendix E of Managing Washington’s Coast); or
  3. If the activity uses federal funding (i.e. grants or loans).

If the activity is outside of the coastal zone or does not fall into one of the above categories, the activity will not require federal consistency review.

15 C.F.R. §§ 930 et seq., Federal Consistency with Approved Coastal Management Programs.

The federal consistency review process allows the public, local governments, Indian Tribes, and state agencies an opportunity to review federal actions likely to affect coastal resources in Washington. Washington Department of Ecology – Coastal Zone Management Federal Consistency Webpage.

13-WA-c.4 – Coastal Zone Certification of Consistency; Federal Consistency Determination (FCD)

When requesting a WCZM determination, the Department of Ecology must first receive a Certification of Consistency. The developer must complete the applicable Certification of Consistency and develop a Federal Consistency Document (“FCD”) and then submit the documents to the Department of Ecology and the applicable federal agency. Washington Department of Ecology – Federal Permits Home.

Federal Agency Action

Where the developer is a federal agency undertaking the activity, the developer must complete Washington Department of Ecology – Determination of Consistency with Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program for Federal Agency Activities Form and submit the form to the Department of Ecology for review. See Managing Washington’s Coast.


The federal agency (developer) will review the activity for consistency with the six enforceable policies pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(1)(C) and its implementing regulations 15 C.F.R. § 930.36. The determination should describe the activity and the activity’s impact on coastal resources. If the activity has an impact on coastal resources, the federal agency must provide a statement that the activity is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with enforceable policies within the six enforceable policies. The term “consistent to the maximum extent practicable” means fully consistent with the enforceable policies of management programs unless consistency is prohibited by existing law applicable to the Federal agency. 15 C.F.R. § 930.32.

If the federal agency (developer) has not completed a consistency review for a project, the Department of Ecology may contact the federal agency and require the federal agency to complete the consistency process. Federal agency activity consistency determinations must be submitted ninety (90) days prior to the start of the proposed activity. The Federal agency must submit the following:

  • The determination, information, and analysis required by 15 C.F.R. § 930.39, which includes a statement indicating whether the activity will be undertaken in a manner consistent to the maximum extent practicable, with Washington’s CZMP, a detailed description of the activity, the coastal zone effects, and comprehensive data and information to support these;
  • If required by federal law other than the CZMA, an approved Shoreline Management Act permit, variance, or exemption and evidence of compliance with other applicable enforceable policies.

See Managing Washington’s Coast.


Activities Requiring Federal Approval or Funding

Where a project requires federal approval or where the project receives federal funding, the developer must complete either the Certification of Consistency with Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program for Federally Funded Activities or the Certification of Consistency with Washington's Coastal Zone Management Program for Federally Licensed or Permitted Activities and submit the form to the Department of Ecology for review. See Managing Washington’s Coast;

16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(3)(A); 15 C.F.R. § 930.57.

The Certificate of Consistency must describe the activity and its impact on coastal resources. As with the federal agency, if the activity has an impact on coastal resources, the developer must provide a statement that the activity is consistent with the six enforceable policies. An applicant (developer) for a federal permit or license must submit the following information:

  • A detailed description of the proposed activity and its associated facilities that is adequate for use in assessing the probable effects, employing maps, diagrams, and data when appropriate;
  • A brief appraisal of the probable effects of the proposal and a short set of findings indicating that the project, its associated facilities, and their effects are consistent with the Washington Coastal Zone Management Program’s enforceable polices;
  • An approved shoreline permit, variance or exemption and evidence of compliance with the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) (where necessary under a shoreline management program); and
  • Evidence of compliance with other applicable enforceable policies.

See Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document.

Note: Where the activity requires more than one federal license or permit, the developer should submit one Certificate of Consistency for all licenses and permits if possible.

Note: In the case of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) permits, the developer must forward the certification to the Corps, who will then forward the document to the Department of Ecology.

A developer who will receive a federal grant or funding must submit the following information:

  • A summary of the purpose for which the federal assistance will be used, including the federal funding agency, the location where any physical improvements will be constructed, and a vicinity map.

Note: Where more than one federal agency provides assistance on the same activity, the Department of Ecology will review all applications at the same time if practicable.


See Washington Coastal Zone Management Program Document.

13-WA-c.5 to 13-WA-c.6 – Review Certificate of Consistency and FCD for Completeness

The Department of Ecology will review the Certificate of Consistency and/or FCD for completeness and accept if complete. The Department of Ecology will notify the developer if the materials are incomplete and the Department of Ecology requires additional information. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

13-WA-c.7 – Publish Notice of Certificate of Consistency and FCD

16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(3)(A) and its implementing regulations 15 C.F.R. § 930.61 require public notice for Certificate of Consistencies for licensing and permitting activities. The form of notice varies depending on the type of approval required:

  • For Section 404, Section 10, and Section 404 Nationwide Permits approved by the U S Army Corps of Engineers, the Corps attaches a Certificate of Consistency notice to the Corps public notice for these permits and the Corps circulates the public notice;
  • For 404 Nationwide Permits that require individual CZM concurrence where the application is submitted to the Department of Ecology, the regional Coastal Zone Management 401 Water Quality Certification contact circulates the public notice;
  • For Coast Guard permits, the Coast Guard attaches the certification notice to the Coast Guard public notice;
  • For certification for all other permits, the developer must provide the notice. The developer may include the notice in a notice for a Shoreline Management Act permit, another permit or approval, or as an independent notice. The developer must publish the notice at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the immediate area that the proposed activity is likely to affect. In addition, the developer must send a copy of the notice to any affected local government, state agency, Indian tribe, and federal agency. The public notice must include:
  • A summary of the proposed activity;
  • The location of the proposed activity;
  • Language stating the Certificate of Consistency and accompanying public information may be inspected at the appropriate Department of Ecology office (including the address of the office as well as the name and address of a person or position that interested persons may contact for more information);
  • Language requesting that the public submit comments to the Department of Ecology and a deadline for submittals.

Where the activity is likely to generate substantial public interest, the Department of Ecology may require the developer to provide the notice to additional agencies, organizations, or individuals as well as require the developer to publish the notice in newspapers reaching a larger geographic area.

See Managing Washington’s Coast

13-WA-c.8 – Submit Affidavit of Publication

The developer must submit a copy of the affidavit of publication and an affidavit attesting that the notice was mailed to persons and organizations as required by the Department of Ecology to the Department of Ecology within fifteen (15) days of when the developer published the notice. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

13-WA-c.9 – Comment on Federal Consistency Certification

Members of the public have a minimum of 21 days to submit written comments to the Department of Ecology on the developer’s federal Certificate of Consistency. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

13-WA-c.10 to 13-WA-c.13 – Review Certificate of Consistency, FCD, and Public Comments

The Department of Ecology will review the developer or agencies certification materials and any public comments on the certification materials. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

Federal Activities

The Department of Ecology will concur with a federal agency’s determination of federal consistency if the determination is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with Washington’s CZM Program. If the federal agency requires a permit or approval under enforceable policy, the Department of Ecology will not make the determination until the federal agency obtains the permit or approval. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

If the Department of Ecology objects to the federal agency’s consistency determination, the Department of Ecology will notify the federal agency via letter with the reasons for its objection. The Department of Ecology’s letter includes:

  • A description of how the activity is inconsistent with specific provisions of Washington’s CZM Program; and
  • Any existing alternative measures, which if adopted would allow the federal agency to proceed with the activity.

See Managing Washington’s Coast; Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

Federal Approval or Funding

The Department of Ecology will concur with the determination of federal consistency if the determination is consistent with the enforceable policies of Washington’s CZM Program. Concurrence is conclusively presumed in the absence of the Department of Ecology issuing an objection within the statutory time limit of up to six months. 16 USC 1456(c)(3)(A). If the developer’s activity requires a permit or approval under an enforceable policy of Washington’s CZM Program, the Department of Ecology will not concur with a certification until after the necessary approval is made.

If the Department of Ecology objects to the developer’s certification, the Department of Ecology will notify the developer; federal agency; and Director of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), National Ocean Service, NOAA via letter with the reasons for the objection. The requirements for the Department of Ecology’s objection letter are the same as above. 15 CFR §930.63.

Specific to federal funding, the Department of Ecology will not issue a written concurrence unless specifically requested by the federal funding agency. If the Department of Ecology issues a letter objecting to the activity, the federal agency may not approve financial assistance for the activity.

See Managing Washington’s Coast

13-WA-c.14 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)

The appeals process and post decision negotiation process differs slightly depending on whether the activity is a federal agency action or a developer action requiring federal approval or funding.

Federal Agency

If Washington objects to a consistency determination, a federal agency can negotiate with the state of Washington or either party can seek mediation from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management or from the United States Secretary of Commerce under 15 C.F.R. § 930 Subpart G. In addition, the President of the United States has the authority to decide that the activity is in the “paramount interest of the country” and exempt a federal agency activity from consistency requirements. 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(1)(B).

Note: Members of the public can appeal a concurrence by the Department of Ecology to a federal agency’s federal consistency determination to the Washington Pollution Control Hearing Board (PCHB) within thirty (30) days of the Department of Ecology’s decision. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.

Federal Approval or Funding

If Washington objects to a developer’s Certificate of Consistency, the developer may appeal the state’s objection to the United States Secretary of Commerce, who has the authority to override Washington’s objection if the activity is consistent with the objectives of the CZMA or is otherwise necessary in the interest of national security. 15 C.F.R. 930 Subpart H. Under 15 C.F.R. §930.121 a federal license or permit activity, or a federal assistance activity, is consistent with the objectives or purposes of the Act if it satisfies each of the following three requirements:

  1. The activity furthers the national interest as articulated in §302 or §303 of the CZMA, in a significant or substantial manner;
  2. The national interest furthered by the activity outweighs the activity's adverse coastal effects, when those effects are considered separately or cumulatively;
  3. There is no reasonable alternative available which would permit the activity to be conducted in a manner consistent with the enforceable policies of the management program. The Secretary of Commerce may consider but is not limited to considering previous appeal decisions, alternatives described in objection letters from the Department of Ecology and alternatives and other information submitted during the appeal. The Secretary must not consider an alternative unless the Department of Ecology submits a statement, in a brief or other supporting material, to the Secretary that the alternative would permit the activity to be conducted in a manner consistent with the enforceable policies of the management program.

Under 15 C.F.R. §930.122 a federal permit or license or federal assistance is necessary in the interest of national security if a national defense or other security interest would be significantly impaired if the activity was not approved.

The Secretary of Commerce must provide public notice of the appeal in the Federal Register and in a publication of general circulation in the immediate area of the coastal zone the proposed activity is likely to affect within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Appeal. 15 C.F.R. §930.128.

Further, after the federal agency or developer exercises these administrative appeal options, the decision may be reviewed in court.

See Managing Washington’s Coast.

Note: Members of the public can appeal a concurrence by the Department of Ecology to a federal agency’s federal consistency determination to the Washington Pollution Control Hearing Board (PCHB) within thirty (30) days of the Department of Ecology’s decision. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Federal Consistency Schematic.


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