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Shoreline Master Program Update

Skagit County is proposing a Comprehensive Update to the County’s Shoreline Master Program (“SMP”), which has not been comprehensively updated since its adoption in 1976. Skagit County, along with all other local governments containing shorelines of the state is required to update the SMP. The SMP is a combined planning and regulatory document that contains policies, goals, and specific land-use regulations for shorelines, shoreline environment designation maps, and it is intended to balance development, public access, and protection of natural resource and shoreline areas. Learn more here.


Board of County Commissioners Discussion & Possible Action on draft Shoreline Master Program, August 23, 2022

Supporting Documents

Board of Commissioners

Planning Commission 2020-2021

Financial Documents

Video Archive

Project Summary

What is a Shoreline Master Program?

The Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is a set of policies and regulations required by state law that has three basic principles:

  • Protect the environmental resources of state shorelines
  • Promote public access and enjoyment opportunities
  • Give priority to uses that require a shoreline location

The SMP must also protect critical areas, ensure no net loss of ecological functions and encourage preferred uses.

The SMP includes goals, policies, and regulations consistent with the Shoreline Management Act of 1971.

Why are we completing a comprehensive update of the SMP?

In 2003, the state Legislature established funding, timelines, and guidelines requiring all cities and counties to update their local Shoreline Master Programs prepared under the Washington State Shoreline Management Act. The new shoreline guidelines passed in 2003 set a higher level of environmental protection for shorelines in the state and a goal of "no net loss" of shoreline function.

The comprehensive update of the SMP began in 2010 and was put on hold in September 2016. Skagit County is completing the comprehensive update of its SMP. We are behind schedule in completing this update.
The comprehensive update of the SMP includes many documents. Please see Supporting Documents section below.

The comprehensive update of the SMP contains a public process, including

  • Visioning Workshops
  • A technical advisory committee
  • Open houses
  • Planning Commission review

Please see Summary of Public Participation Process and Planning Commission sections below for additional information on the public process that has already occurred.

What is a periodic review of the SMP?

Subsequent periodic review of the SMP is required by the State every eight years. The first periodic review of Skagit County’s comprehensive SMP update is due June 30, 2021.

The purpose and scope of the 2020-2021 periodic review is to keep the SMP current with

  • Amendments to state law (WAC, RCW)
    •  Consistency with Ecology’s periodic review checklist
  •  Changes in local plans and regulations 
    • Consistency with Comp Plan and development regulations
  •  New or improved data and information 
    • Consistency with latest Ecology guidance, science, and other improvements to the SMP’s overall use and function

Proposed Project Timeline

Historical Information (from 2016 and before)

Skagit County (along with every other city and county in the state) is working on updating our 1970s-era shoreline regulations. Our shoreline plans are required by the state Shoreline Management Act ("the SMA"), which was approved by Washington voters in a 1972 referendum. Read these frequently-asked questions (including myth-busters) about the Shoreline Master Program update.

Proposed SMP Update Drafts

SMP Public Comment Release Draft (February 2016)
The policies, development regulations, and environment designation map below constitute the proposed County regulations on which the Planning Commission will issue a recommendation and that the Board of County Commissioners will eventually adopt.

Supporting Documents
The documents below are background and supplemental studies, reports, and data that the state requires Skagit County prepare for its SMP Update.

Planning Commission Update Memos
The County Planning Commission spent the last two years reviewing and offering detailed feedback on older drafts of the SMP.

Older SMP Update Drafts

How to Participate & Comment


Summary of Public Participation Process to Date
Skagit County is following this Public Participation Plan (PDF) to expand opportunities for public comment and involvement in development of the updated Shoreline Master Program. The draft SMP update will also go through the required public process for land use legislation found in Skagit County Code 14.08.

Process Timeline

  Date Item
chec k May 2011. Notice mailed to all unincorporated county landowners
chec k June 7. 2011 Concrete Visioning workshop
chec k June 8, 2011 Lyman Visioning workshop
chec k June 15, 2011 Mount Vernon Visioning workshop
chec k July 13, 2011 Anacortes Visioning workshop
chec k May 22, 2012 First working draft released
chec k June 2012 Informal comment period on first working draft
chec k February 4. 2013 Working draft for Ecology's preliminarry review released
chec k Summer 2013 Open houses in Concrete. Lyman , Mount Vernon, and Anacortes
chec k Spring 2014 Revised draft elements for Planning Commission workshops
chec k 2015 Revised draft elements for Planning Commission final review before public comment
chec k February 5, 2016 Revised draft released; written comment period starts
chec k February 26, 2016 Expected release of analysis documents
chec k March 15, 2016 Planning Commission public hearing at 6pm
chec k April 4, 2016 Written comment period ends
chec k April-August 2016 Planning Commission deliberations on comments and draft
chec k August 2016 Planning Commission issues recommendation on draft
chec k 2018 Board of County Commissioners preliminary approval
chec k Expected w/n 12 mos Ecology preliminary approval
chec k Following Board of County Commissioners adoption
chec k Following Ecology final approval

Grant Agreement
Skagit County received a state grant to fund development of the SMP Update for the County itself, as well as the towns of Lyman and Hamilton.

Open Houses
In May and June 2013, Skagit County held open houses in Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Lyman, and Concrete to discuss the draft shoreline plan and get feedback from the public. The format for the open houses was informal discussions with County staff and the consultant team to answer questions and provide information and to receive input on the SMP, which is reflected in this report.

Visioning Workshops
The Department held visioning workshops in Concrete, Lyman, Mount Vernon, and Anacortes June-July 2011 and presented this Visioning Workshops SMP Background Presentation. The result of those workshops is summarized in this Visioning Workshops Summary.

Shoreline Advisory Committee
The Board of County Commissioners has appointed a 17-member advisory committee to help review draft materials and advise the Planning & Development Services Department throughout the update process. Meetings are open to the public, and agendas, minutes and schedules are available on the committee website.

Public Comment on First Working Draft
The Department accepted comments on the first working draft from May 22 through June 29, 2012.

Planning Commission
The Skagit County Planning Commission has been reviewing and providing feedback on early drafts as they are prepared by the County's consultant, staff, and the advisory committee. The Planning Commission will also review the formal complete draft, and hold at least one public hearing on it.

Board of County Commissioners
The Board of County Commissioners will review the document after the Planning Commission issues its recommendation, and make a decision on it consistent with the process in Skagit County Code 14.08.

Ecology Approval
Shoreline Master Programs have to be approved by the Department of Ecology to be valid. After the Board approves the document, Ecology will approve it or make comments. The Board may need to make changes to the document before final Ecology approval.

Where We Are Now (updated 2/4/14)
The Department has produced a complete working draft of the updated Shoreline Master Program after addressing Planning Commission and Ecology comments and rewriting for clarity, consistency, and brevity. The Planning Commission will review and make suggestions on this draft approximately on the schedule described by this memo before a new draft is prepared for public comment and public hearing.

Received Comments

Reference Information

Contact Us
Betsy Stevenson, AICP, Project Manager
Skagit County Planning & Development Services
(360) 416-1323