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J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907

Shoreline Management Home Critical Areas Logo

On August 5, 2008 Whatcom County Council passed a resolution that approved the State Department of Ecology's changes to the Feb. 27, 2007 adopted Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program (SMP) amendment. This made the Whatcom County SMP amendment, with Ecology's changes, in effect as of August 8, 2008.

Download the Code Here: Shoreline Management Program

Before you begin, read:

Navigating Your Way Through the Shoreline Management Program

To view shoreline maps, click here.


Whatcom County's shorelines are among the most valuable of this state’s natural resources. Photo of StarfishShoreline ecosystems are diverse, dynamic, fragile and sensitive environments. Protection and management of these areas is important to the preservation of ecological functions and values of our natural environment, as well as the protection of the public health, safety and welfare of our community. Unregulated or inappropriate development on or near shorelines can result in impacts that threaten the public welfare and shoreline resources, including: pollution, erosion and sedimentation, habitat loss, flooding, or loss of property.


Photo of BeachThe State Legislature passed the Washington State Shoreline Management Act (SMA) in June 1971. The SMA was overwhelmingly passed by public initiative in 1972. Under the SMA, each county and city was required to prepare a shoreline “master program” in accordance with the shoreline guidelines issued by the State Department of Ecology in 1972.

The Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program (SMP), WCC Title 23, is the document that implements the goals and policies of the SMA at the local level. It was adopted in 1976 in accordance with RCW 90.58. The goals and policies of the Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program also constitute the shoreline component of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan.
Under the provisions of the SMA, all development within shorelines of the state is required to comply with the provisions of local shoreline master programs. The Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program works with other chapters of the Whatcom County Code to protect and preserve saltwater and freshwater shorelines throughout the county by managing natural resources and directing development and land use suitable for the shoreline environment.

The Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program jurisdiction includes:

  • More than 130 miles of marine shoreline
  • More than 60 miles of lake shoreline
  • More than 220 miles of stream channels
  • All wetlands and floodways associated with the above shorelines, together with all upland areas within 200-feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM)

Whatcom County PDS and the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) share joint authority and responsibility of the Whatcom County SMP. Whatcom County PDS is the primary agency responsible for implementation of the Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program. The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for supervising the administration of the code, ensuring proper implementation, and assuring consistency with the SMA. Because the Whatcom County master program is approved and adopted by the Washington State DOE, it has the authority of state law.