Clean, Healthy Waterways

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Shoreline Master Program Spokane Update

Puget Sound Shoreline

In 2013, More than 10 communities from Eastern Washington to the Puget Sound to our coast will be inventorying their shoreline habitat areas and developing policies and plans to protect and restore the shoreline ecosystem.  We will help these communities adopt effective shoreline policies and restoration plans — some of which are updating their shoreline protections for the first time since 1970.  Futurewise has led the way on these updates – and is the only organization working across the state to improve shoreline protections. 

We will also be developing a series of reports to address the key barriers to implementation of newly adopted Shoreline Master Programs - from adaptive management to regulatory incentives.  Finally, through our shoreline planning and policy work to implementing a coordinated regional monitoring program, we are working closely with the Puget Sound Partnership on implementing the new Action Agenda. 

About Shoreline Master Programs

The Shoreline Management Act (SMA) requires every county and city in Washington State to update their Shoreline Master Programs by 2014. Shoreline Master Programs (SMP) are policies and regulations that protect and manage our shorelines including streams, rivers, Puget Sound, and the Pacific Ocean. Most Shoreline Master Programs are quite old and in desperate need of being updated. In fact, this is the first time since the Shoreline Management Act was approved by the voters in 1972 that updates have been required.

Futurewise has been working statewide in nearly 50 jurisdictions on the SMP updates over the past four years.  We are providing technical expertise and guidance, participating on advisory committees such as the Snohomish, Spokane and  Pierce Counties' SMP Update advisory committee, and have developed proactive planning tools for local jurisdictions to better understand both the science and the regulatory framework of the SMA.  While we will actively pursue the initial adoption of strong SMPs, as the update process continues, we will assess the need for growth board appeals.

Recently, the City of Spokane approved the final amendments to its shoreline master program opening the way for approval of the Shoreline Master Program by the Washington State Department of Ecology. These amendments include adopting 200 foot wide buffers on part of Hangman Creek that the policy advisory committee and planning commission had previously recommended the city council adopt.  Unfortunately the City Council gave into political pressure the first time, weakening protection for these valuable shorelines.

Futurewise staff participated on the policy advisory committee that recommended the original buffers.  After the City Council weakened these shoreline protections, even overriding a veto by Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, Futurewise continued to advocate for restoring these important protections, asking the Department of Ecology to restore the buffer.  Ecology agreed, telling the city they could not approve the shoreline master program without these protections.  Futurewise then redoubled its efforts organizing and advocating the improvements recommended by Ecology.  Our work paid off, with the City Council adopting the improvements.

The City of Spokane is just one of many places in Washington were Futurewise is working tirelessly on a comprehensive program to ensure that Washington’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) updates are completed in a timely manner, provide opportunities for local organizations and citizens to participate in the process, and offer the best protections possible for our shorelines-- leading to better water quality, the recovery of Puget Sound, the restoration of our watersheds, an increase in public access, and the restoration of degraded shorelines.

Through the SMP update process, Futurewise’s primary goal is to assist in the restoration and recovery of Puget Sound and better protections for our rivers, lakes streams and marine bodies. The final reward of our intensive involvement in the process should be significant gains across the state in habit protections, water quality, and increasing public access to our shorelines and waterways for recreation activities and enjoyment.

Visit NOAA to learn more about the unique challenges and opportunities surrounding coastal and waterfront smart growth issues.  Or for a citizen's guide to SMP updates visit the Dept. of Ecology to find out how you can get involved in your community.

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