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State Facts

Miles of Coast: 3,026

Coastal Population (2000): 4,615,192

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Department of Ecology

Approval Date: 1976

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Ocean and Coastal Management in Washington

Washington’s Coastal Program

In 1976, NOAA approved Washington’s Coastal Program, the first approved program in the nation. The Washington State Department of Ecology is the lead coastal management agency. The primary authority for the Coastal Program is the Shoreline Management Act of 1971 (SMA) which requires local governments to develop and implement Shoreline Master Programs that regulate streams, lakes over 20 acres, and marine waterfronts. The Washington coastal zone includes the state’s 15 coastal counties that front saltwater.

Photo of rocky coast

Hiking is a popular recreational activity along the Washington coast.

The Coastal Program is improving shoreline management by funding and adopting new local shoreline master programs in the Puget Sound basin and throughout the coastal zone in accordance with the State's Shoreline Master Program Guidelines that were updated in 2003. Coastal Program staff provide training, financial and technical assistance to local government decision-makers on shoreline planning, wetlands management, and coastal hazards. The Coastal Program also preserves important wetlands habitat by providing technical assistance, developing project proposals, and soliciting funding for priority restoration and acquisition projects.

Washington’s National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 11,000-acre natural area, is located north of Seattle near Anacortes. The Reserve was designated in 1980 and the lead management agency is the Department of Ecology. Padilla Bay, located in the Salish Sea, is part of a large river delta in a fjord estuary. Most of the reserve encompasses extensive seagrass meadows, tidal flats and sloughs, salt marshes, and upland forests and meadows.

The Reserve’s research and monitoring program focuses primarily on the ecology and importance of seagrass and watershed monitoring and nonpoint source pollutants from agriculture drainage. At the Reserve's 100-acre demonstration farm, farming and research communities are collaborating to explore various agricultural methods that might reduce polluted runoff from the fields. The Reserve also provides education and outreach activities for students, the general public and for professional planners and natural resource managers. Stewardship activities include monitoring for the presence of invasive European green crabs and creosote log removal.

Program Achievements

Washington's Shoreline Management Act

Washington Coastal Atlas


Washington Coastal Program — The website provides information on the Program’s activities including federal consistency and their Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Washington State's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan (2007) — The State of Washington has developed a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan that provides an assessment of priority conservation needs and guidance for nominating and selecting land conservation projects to OCRM's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program competition.

Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — The website provides information on their research, education, and stewardship activities.

Washington Shoreline Management Act FEIS — Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the incorporation of revised Washington Shoreline Management Act Guidelines into Washington's federally approved coastal management program.

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology — This program brief describes investments in technology development and research projects for the state of Washington.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas. The website includes information about the Sanctuary's management, education and outreach, and research activities.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Washington.

Washington Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional Approval Document — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone.

Washington Coastal Program Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Washington Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Washington Coastal Atlas — Washington has developed an interactive mapping tool that can be used to learn more about Washington’s Coast.

Shoreline Management Planning — Comprehensive information about Washington's shoreline planning efforts, requirements, procedures and timelines.

West Coast Governors Agreement on Ocean Health — The WCGA is a regional collaboration to protect and manage the ocean and coastal resources along the entire West Coast. This site describes goals, actions and information on this regional effort.

Contact Information for Washington’s Programs

Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program
Department of Ecology
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504
(360) 407-6000

Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
10441 Bayview-Edison Road
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
(360) 428-1558