Pacific Northwest

WA - Thurston County commissioners adopt Shoreline Master Plan update for Ecology review

Thurston’s Board of County Commissioners adopted the Shoreline Master Program update at a meeting earlier, December 12, 2023.

The Board of County Commissioners approved the adoption of its Shoreline Master Program (SMP) at a regular meeting on December 12.

The BoCC first reviewed the final draft on December 11 with Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) representatives.

The SMP regulates development and redevelopment in the county’s shoreline areas, including Puget Sound lakes and reservoirs 20 acres or larger, streams with a flow of more than 20 acres per cubic second, and lands within 200 feet of these water bodies known as shorelands, and wetlands, and floodways.

For the past months, the BoCC has been reviewing the SMP. After a series of public hearings, the board held several work sessions to review public comment and revise the draft SMP in preparation of adoption and submittal to the Department of Ecology.

“The county is updating its Shoreline Master Program as required by state law. That project includes both comprehensive and periodic updates to state requirements. The current SMP was adopted in 1990. The final draft was sent to the board last week and published online,” said SMP Project Lead and Senior Planner Andrew Deffobis.

CPED’s review of the SMP update began in 2017; it held 81 work sessions between 2017 and 2022. An in-person open house opened in 2018, and a virtual open house opened around October 2021. The commission issued its recommendation to the BoCC in August 2022, and the board has held at least ten work sessions on the SMP update since. The board held a public hearing in May 2023, followed by multiple work sessions to consider the comments received. The board’s last work session was December 11.

CPED Director Joshua Cummings explained that the purpose of the SMP update is to allow more flexibility in permitting development and to improve environmental safeguards.

“It provides efficiency in the development permitting process, and it brings our environmental protections up to par with current status,” said Cummings. “Whatever action the board decides to take begins the discussion, and then they have the time to review this shoreline master program, and then their approval allows us to update the code.”

According to Deffobis, the SMP is designed to achieve no net loss of ecological function over its implementation, and the SMP update also incorporates three broad policies of the state’s Shoreline Management Act: 1) to protect the environmental resources of state shorelines, 2) to promote public access and enjoyment opportunities, and 3) to give priority to uses that require a shoreline location upon final approval of the SMP Project Lead.

Read more.