NOTE: The SMP is being updated! View information on the proposed updates HERE.

Shoreline Planning under the Shoreline Management Act

The shoreline planning process differs from the more traditional planning process in that the emphasis is on protecting the shoreline environment through management of uses. Local government has the primary responsibility for initiating the planning program and administering the regulatory requirements. These requirements stem from the Shoreline Management Act (RCW 90.58), adopted in November of 1972, for the management and protection of the state's shorelines.

In accordance with the Shoreline Management Act, the City of Anacortes, in partnership with WA Department of Ecology, established the Shoreline Master Program (SMP).

The  Anacortes SMP is a planning document that outlines goals and policies for the use, development, protection, and restoration of shorelines of the City. It is also a regulatory ordinance with regulations for development intended to implement the goals and policies.


Developing within Shoreline Jurisdiction

Shoreline jurisdiction includes marine waters and lakes, and those lands extending landward for 200 ft. in all directions, as measured on a horizontal plane from the ordinary high water mark (OHWM), including all wetlands associated with the shoreline.

Most development in shoreline jurisdiction requires a City shoreline permit or a letter of exemption. But the City is not the only agency that regulates development in shoreline areas.  See the sidebar on the right of this page for more information about other state and federal agencies with regulatory authority over shoreline projects.  To improve your shoreline permitting experience, you should become aware of other state and federal requirements that may apply to your project by contacting all applicable regulatory agencies early in your planning process.  It may be helpful to contact a professional that is familiar with shoreline permitting issues to help you navigate the process.

Use these steps to find out what activities are allowable by the Anacortes Shoreline Master Program and if City permits may be required:

Finding the Shoreline Environment Designation

Anacortes has six shoreline environments that were established to protect existing ecological shoreline function while recognizing the unique characteristics of Anacortes and its shoreline. These environments are: Aquatic, Natural, Conservancy, Shoreline Residential, Urban, & Urban Maritime.

To determine the shoreline environment designation (SED) for your property, access the City's interactive mapping HERE.

Be sure you select the "Planning Department" from the Layers list and have the Shoreline Environment Designations box checked.

Verify which permit type may be required

Now that you know your SED, you can jump into the City's SMP.

Shoreline uses and modifications are organized in a use matrix (Table 5.1). Uses and modifications are identified as either: Permitted (P), Conditional Use (C), or Prohibited (X).

  • If a use is Permitted, it may be allowed with a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP) or a Shoreline Exemption.
    • To qualify for a Shoreline Exemption, the use must meet one of the listed criteria of SMP Chapter 2.4.
    • The current "substantial development" dollar threshold is $8,504 (as of 7/1/22)
  • If a use is a Conditional Use, it may be allowed with a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit
  • If a use is Prohibited, it may not be allowed for permitting in that SED

NOTE: If your use is not listed in Table 5.1 (or otherwise permitted in applicable SMP chapter), the use is "unclassified" and may be processed as a Conditional Use.