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Home » Archives » August 2011 » State Supreme Court Rules Against Local Govenment Shoreline Control

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08/22/2011: "State Supreme Court Rules Against Local Govenment Shoreline Control"


The Washington Supreme Court has ruled in an unanimous decision that it is the state that has final approval authority for shoreline management plans and regulations, and not local governments.

The lawsuit was an attempt to broadly A law suit had been filed against the Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Whatcom County in an attempt to invalidate portions of Whatcom County’s 2008 state-approved shoreline master program.


The state Shoreline Management Act gives local governments some flexibility to tailor their shoreline programs to reflect local conditions and needs, however, the court’s decision recognizes that under state law Ecology is charged with the final review, and approval to ensure each shoreline master program meets state law.

The law suit was filed by Citizens for Rational Shoreline Planning, Ronald Jepson and the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County against.

The plaintiffs asserted that because Whatcom County had developed its proposed shoreline master program at the local level, final approval of the county’s updated shoreline program was a local decision.

They claimed some of the requirements in Whatcom County’s shoreline program would violate state tax law generally prohibiting local governments from imposing certain taxes or fees in exchange for development rights.

The 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act was passed to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses, and protect the public’s right to public lands and waters.

“The court’s decision clarifies that the collaborative process Ecology and local governments use to manage our shoreline areas is fair, transparent and flexible,” said Ecology Deputy Director Polly Zehm. “We all have a stake in protecting our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as our children and future generations. Our shorelines make Washington a great place to live.”

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