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Washington Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (13-WA-g)

Information current as of 2019
In Washington, a person (developer) may need a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit from a local government planning and permitting office (local government) for non-exempt development projects that “exceed the total cost or fair market value of $6,416, or any development which materially interferes with the normal public use of the water or shoreline of the state.” R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e); R.C.W. § 90.58.140(2). A developer may also need a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Exemption.


The local government develops a Shoreline Master Program (SMP), consistent with rules adopted by the Washington Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”), for the administration and enforcement of Shoreline Substantial Development Permits. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(2)-(3); W.A.C. § 173-27-020.

The local government helps the developer determine whether a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit or Exemption is required. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematics.



Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Process

13-WA-g.1 – Does a Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption Apply?

Substantial development does not include:

  • Normal maintenance or repair of existing structures or developments, including damage by accident, fire or elements;
  • Operation, maintenance, or construction of canals, waterways, drains, reservoirs, or other facilities that now exist or are hereafter created or developed as part of an irrigation system for the primary purpose of making use of system waters, including return flow and artificially stored groundwater for irrigation of lands;
  • Certain site exploration and investigation activities pursuant to R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e)(xi).

R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e); W.A.C. § 173-27-040(2).

For a complete list of activities that are not substantial developments, see: R.C.W. §§ 90.58.030(3)(e); W.A.C. § 173-27-040(2).

Although a proposed development may be found exempt from Substantial Development Permit requirements, it may still require a Variance or Conditional Use Permit and must comply with the local SMP and all development standards. W.A.C. § 173-27-040(1)(b); Washington Department of Ecology – Shoreline Master Programs Webpage.

If the proposed project is exempt from a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, the developer may still need a Shoreline Exemption from the local shoreline permitting office. The developer should contact the local shoreline permitting office to determine the Shoreline Exemption Permit process for that region.

If a Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption applies go to 13-WA-g.21 to 13-WA-g.23 – Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption Application for more information on the exemption process.

13-WA-g.2 – Hold Pre-Application Meeting

Most jurisdictions hold a pre-application meeting with the local planning staff, the applicant (developer), and with other agencies with jurisdiction over the proposed development. This meeting provides an opportunity for an informal exchange of information about the proposal. The meeting also allows for agency staff to request specific application information or suggest modifications or mitigation measures for the proposal. Washington Shoreline Master Program – Pre-Application Meeting Webpage. At the meeting the local shoreline planning staff may:

  • Explain the process that the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Application will undergo with expected timelines;
  • Identify the applicable policies and regulations;
  • Identify the type and extent of information that is necessary to properly and expeditiously process the Application;
  • Discuss modifications or mitigation measures that improves the chance that the Application moves smoothly through the review process.”

Washington Shoreline Master Program – Pre-Application Meeting Webpage.


13-WA-g.3 – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Application

The developer must submit a complete Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Application (Application) and fees to the local government shoreline permitting and planning office. Local governments have their own Application form and requirements. However, an Application must include, at minimum, the following:

  • The name, address and phone number of the applicant (developer). The applicant (developer) should be the owner of the property or the primary proponent of the project and not the representative of the owner or primary proponent;
  • The name, address and phone number of the applicant's representative if other than the applicant (developer);
  • The name, address and phone number of the property owner, if other than the applicant (developer);
  • Location of the property. The property location description must include, at a minimum, the property address and identification of the section, township and range to the nearest quarter, quarter section or latitude and longitude to the nearest minute;
  • Identification of the name of the shoreline (water body) that the site of the proposal is associated with. This should be the water body from which jurisdiction of the act over the project is derived;
  • A general description of the proposed project that includes the proposed use or uses and the activities necessary to accomplish the project;
  • A general description of the property as it now exists including its physical characteristics and improvements and structures;
  • A general description of the vicinity of the proposed project including identification of the adjacent uses, structures and improvements, intensity of development and physical characteristics;
  • A site development plan consisting of maps and elevation drawings, drawn to an appropriate scale to depict clearly all required information, photographs and text which shall include:
    • The boundary of the parcel(s) of land upon which the development is proposed;
    • The ordinary high water mark of all water bodies located adjacent to or within the boundary of the project. This may be an approximate location provided, that for any development where a determination of consistency with the applicable regulations requires a precise location of the ordinary high water mark the mark shall be located precisely and the biological and hydrological basis for the location as indicated on the plans must be included in the development plan. Where the ordinary high water mark is neither adjacent to or within the boundary of the project, the plan must indicate the distance and direction to the nearest ordinary high water mark of a shoreline;
    • Existing and proposed land contours. The contours must be at intervals sufficient to accurately determine the existing character of the property and the extent of proposed change to the land that is necessary for the development. Areas within the boundary that will not be altered by the development may be indicated as such and contours approximated for that area;
    • A delineation of all wetland areas that will be altered or used as a part of the development;
    • A general indication of the character of vegetation found on the site.
    • The dimensions and locations of all existing and proposed structures and improvements including but not limited to; buildings, paved or graveled areas, roads, utilities, septic tanks and drainfields, material stockpiles or surcharge, and stormwater management facilities;
    • Where applicable, a landscaping plan for the project;
    • Where applicable, plans for development of areas on or off the site as mitigation for impacts associated with the proposed project shall be included and contain information consistent with the requirements of W.A.C. §173-27-180;
    • Quantity, source and composition of any fill material that is placed on the site whether temporary or permanent;
    • Quantity, composition and destination of any excavated or dredged material;
    • A vicinity map showing the relationship of the property and proposed development or use to roads, utilities, existing developments and uses on adjacent properties;
    • Where applicable, a depiction of the impacts to views from existing residential uses and public areas.

W.A.C. §173-27-180(1)-(9).

In addition, the Application must accompany a demonstration of compliance with the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Some projects require an environmental impact statement (EIS); others a determination of nonsignificance (DNS) and environmental checklist, or a determination of categorical exemption. Compliance with SEPA, including all review or waiting periods, is required before a decision on an Application can be made. The Application and SEPA analysis should identify future uses intended for the site to avoid the possibility of piecemeal or inappropriate phasing of development. Washington Shoreline Master Program – State Environmental Policy Act Webpage.

The SEPA process interacts with the shoreline management process in several ways. Compliance with SEPA is required for issuance of a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. Conditioning and denial of a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit may be done under powers granted by SEPA rules. The SEPA checklist must identify all local, state, and/or federal permits or approvals that may be required. An EIS should include an evaluation of the project's consistency with existing plans and policies (e.g. the local SMP) and zoning regulations. For these reasons, it's important to remember that the "umbrella" of SEPA compliance extends over the whole shoreline administration process. Washington Shoreline Master Program – State Environmental Policy Act Webpage. For more information on the SEPA process, see:

State Environmental Review:
9-WA-a

Note: The applicant (developer) has the “burden of proving that a proposed substantial development is consistent with the criteria that must be met before a permit is granted.” R.C.W. § 90.58.140(7).

13-WA-g.4 to 13-WA-g.5 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The local government reviews the application materials and SEPA compliance status for administrative and technical completeness. The local government notifies the developer that the Application is complete or incomplete. If the Application is incomplete the local government notifies the developer of the Application’s deficiencies. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

13-WA-g.6 to 13-WA-g.7 – Publish Notice of Application

The local government must provide notice of the Application to the public, the Department of Ecology and other agencies with jurisdiction in the manner prescribed pursuant to R.C.W. § 90.58.140(4) and W.A.C. § 173-27-110 (2) within fourteen (14) days after a completeness determination. W.A.C. § 173-27-110(1)-(2); R.C.W. § 90.58.140(4); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

The notice should include information regarding a thirty (30) day public comment period and how to receive notification of the final application decision. The public may submit written comments regarding the Application. The public may also request a public hearing regarding the Application from the local government. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(4); W.A.C. § 173-27-110(2)(e); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

13-WA-g.8 to 13-WA-g.10 – Publish Notice of Public Hearing (If Applicable)

The local government has discretion to hold a public hearing regarding the Application. The local government must publish notice of the public hearing. The notice must include a statement that any person may submit oral or written comments on the Application at the hearing. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(4)(c); W.A.C. § 173-27-110(2)(f); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

13-WA-g.11 to 13-WA-g.13 – Request Response to Public Comments (If Applicable)

The local government may require the applicant (developer) to respond to the public comments regarding the Application. If the local government requires a response, the developer should submit a written response to the comments to the local government pursuant in the format and timeframe designated by the local government. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

The local government often sends copies of the developer’s written response to the public. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

13-WA-g.14 to 13-WA-g.19 – Does the Local Government Approve the Application?

After reviewing the Application in conjunction with the public comments and the developer’s response to the comments, the local government makes a decision on the Application. Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

The local government sends a copy of the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit or Notice of Decision to the Department of Ecology and the Attorney General using a return receipt request mail delivery. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(6); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic. The local government should mail the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and documentation of the final local decision together with:

  • The complete Application;
  • A findings and conclusions letter;
  • A permit data form; and
  • Any applicable SEPA documents.

Washington Shoreline Master Program – Ecology Review of Permits Webpage.

The Department of Ecology sends a filing letter to the applicant (developer) and the local government within seven (7) days of the filing date. The Department of Ecology may request additional information from the applicant (developer) to complete the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit file. If the Department of Ecology requests additional information, the applicant (developer) must submit the additional information to the local government. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(6); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic.

The developer must commence construction activities or the use or activity within two (2) years of the effective date of the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. The local government may extend the commencement date with a good cause determination. W.A.C. § 173-27-090(1)-(2). “Authorization to conduct development activities must terminate five (5) years after the effective date of the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. However, the local government may authorize a single extension for a period not to exceed one (1) year based on reasonable factors…” W.A.C. § 173-27-090(3).

13-WA-g.20 – Request Review of Decision (If Applicable)

The Department of Ecology, applicant (developer), or any person, organization or agency may file a request for review of the permit decision, within twenty-one (21) days from the decision date, with the Shorelines Hearing Board. R.C.W. § 90.58.140(6); Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Schematic; Washington Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance – Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Webpage.

13-WA-g.21 to 13-WA-g.23 – Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption Application

Typically, the developer would submit a Shoreline Substantial Development Exemption Application (in the form provided by the local government) (Exemption Application) regarding the details of the of the exemption request. W.C.C. §23.60.023; Washington – City of Issaquah Shoreline Exemption Permit Instructions; Washington - Washougal Muni. Code §§ 16.16 et seq., Shoreline Development.

The local shoreline permitting office, usually, then reviews the Exemption Application for administrative and technical completeness. The permitting office may request additional information from the developer. Washington – City of Issaquah Shoreline Exemption Permit Instructions; Washington - Washougal Shoreline Exemption Permit Process Guide.

13-WA-g.24 to 13-WA-g.28 – Submit Shoreline Exemption Application to Local Government Agencies for Review and Comment

Generally, once the developer submits a complete Exemption Application to the local shoreline permitting office, the staff submits the exemption request material to additional local government agencies for review and comment. Then the local shoreline permitting office reviews the Exemption Application in conjunction with the agency comments and makes a determination on the Exemption Application. W.C.C. §23.60.023; Washington – City of Issaquah Shoreline Exemption Permit Instructions; Washington - Washougal Shoreline Exemption Permit Process Guide.

Normally, the local shoreline permitting office gives notice of the decision to the applicant. The local shoreline office must also give notice of the decision to the Department of Ecology, following the exemption letter requirements, pursuant to W.A.C. §173-27-040(2)(d) if the project is subject to one or more of the following federal permitting requirements:

  • A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers section 10 permit under the Rivers and Harbors Act;
  • A section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act;
  • And other developments required by the local government.

W.A.C. §173-27-050; W.C.C. §23.60.023; Washington – City of Issaquah Shoreline Exemption Permit Instructions; Washington - Washougal Shoreline Exemption Permit Process Guide.

If the local shoreline permitting office denies the Exemption Application, a developer may be able to appeal the decision pursuant to the local laws. W.C.C. §23.60.023; Washington – City of Issaquah Shoreline Exemption Permit Instructions; Washington - Washougal Shoreline Exemption Permit Process Guide.

Note: Most of the information provided for the Shoreline Exemption process was surmised by analyzing multiple local government regulations and may not be precise to the developer’s particular regional shoreline permitting office. As mentioned above, the developer should contact the local shoreline permitting office in the region to determine the particular applicable Shoreline Exemption process for the project area.


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