Home  /  Shoreline Master Program Periodic Update

Shoreline Master Program Periodic Update


Due to technical difficulties, some of the links on this page are broken. We are in process of fixing them and anticipate to be completed next week. In the meantime, please contact us at 253-835-2655, or email if you want one of these documents.


Washington’s Shoreline Management Act, Chapter 90.58 RCW (SMA), was passed by the State Legislature in 1971 and adopted by the public in a referendum. The goal of the SMA is, “…to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.” The overarching SMA policy is to manage shorelines of the state by planning for and supporting reasonable and appropriate uses while protecting against adverse impacts to public health, the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the waters of the state and their aquatic life.

The primary responsibility for administering the SMA is assigned to local governments through the mechanism of Shoreline Master Programs (SMP), adopted under guidelines established by the Washington State Department of Ecology (“Ecology”). According to Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 6012, passed by the 2003 Washington State Legislature, cities within King County are required to amend their local SMPs consistent with Ecology’s revised guidelines. The required update process also provides cities with an opportunity to incorporate the changes in the physical shoreline conditions (including annexations) and integrate current technical and scientific information into the SMP.

The city's current SMP may be found here: Federal Way Comprehensive Plan (FWCP) Chapter 11, Shoreline Master Program.



City Council -- First Reading -- June 18, 2019, 6:30 pm, City Hall Council Chambers -- Agenda
Land Use and Transportation Committee -- June 3, 2019, 5:00 pm, City Hall Council Chambers -- Agenda, Agenda Bill, Staff Report, Ordinance
Planning Commission Public Hearing -- May 1, 2019 Agenda Packet (Agenda, Staff Report, Gap Analysis, Final Draft of Chapters 15.05 and 19.145)
The Public Hearing will be held on May 1, 2019, at 6:30 pm, in the Federal Way Council Chambers. Public comment will be accepted at the Public Hearing and from April 12 to May 13, 2019, at 5:00 pm. Please see the above public hearing notice or the below DNS for additional information. DRAFT 
NoticeGap AnalysisChapter 15.05 (Shorline Management), Chapter 19.145 (Critical Areas)

Determination of Nonsignificance -- April 12, 2019, DNS and SEPA Checklist

Planning Commission 2nd Study Session -- April 17th, 6:30 pm, City Hall Council Chambers -- Agenda

Planning Commission Study Session -- April 3rd, 6:30 pm, City Hall Council Chambers -- Agenda Packet

Open House -- January 30th, 6:00 pm, City Hall Council Chambers -- Agenda


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Shoreline Master Program (SMP)?

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

  • Encourages reasonable and appropriate development of shorelines with an emphasis on water dependent uses, which when developed are consistent with the control of pollution and prevention of damage to the natural environment, such as docks, marinas, and recreational facilities, or industries and commercial uses that require a shoreline location and support economic development; and,
  • Protects the natural resources and character of the shorelines, the land, vegetation, wildlife, water, and aquatic life within shoreline environment; and,
  • Promotes public access and provides opportunities to enjoy the aesthetic qualities of the natural shorelines and recreational activities in shoreline areas.

Where does this apply?

“Shorelines of the state” are special waterbodies that meet certain size or flow criteria in the Washington state Shoreline Management Act (SMA). These shorelines of the state include rivers and streams with mean annual flow more than 20 cubic feet per second, lakes 20 acres or larger, and all marine shorelines. The shoreline jurisdiction extends 200 feet landward of the water’s edge and additionally includes associated wetlands, floodways, and up to 200 feet of floodplain contiguous to the floodway. Shorelines of the state in Federal Way include Puget Sound, Star Lake, Steel Lake, Dolloff Lake, North Lake, Lake Geneva, Lake Killarney, and Five Mile Lake; there are no shorelines of the state associated with rivers or streams in the city.

What is a periodic update of the SMP?

The City of Federal Way completed a comprehensive update to its SMP in 2011. Washington state law requires jurisdictions to review and update their SMPs every eight years in accordance with the SMA and its current guidelines and legislative rules to attain state approval.

This periodic update will focus on:

  • Reviewing relevant legislative updates since 2011 and incorporating any applicable amendments; and
  • Ensuring consistency with recently adopted regulations for critical areas and flood hazard areas.

This periodic update will NOT:

  • Re-evaluate the ecological baseline that was established as part of the 2011 comprehensive update;
  • Extensively assess no net loss criteria other than to ensure that proposed amendments do not result in degradation of the baseline condition; or
  • Change shoreline jurisdiction or environment designations.

What type of activities and uses do shoreline regulations apply to?

Shoreline regulations apply to any land use activity that occurs within the shoreline jurisdiction as defined in the SMP.  Included in those structures and uses regulated in the SMP are:

•     New or expanded structures, such as houses, sheds, and decks;

•     New or expanded in-water and over-water structures, such as docks, buoys, and boat launches;

•     Land development and alteration, such as clearing, grading, dredging, or filling; and

•     Other activities along the shorelines, including restoration (e.g., riparian planting, bank stabilization), trail construction, and public access.

What is a Shoreline Exemption and what is required to obtain approval?

Certain land uses and development activities are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, but are not exempt from compliance with the SMP. Exemptions must be narrowly construed and all activities that are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Shoreline Substantial Development permit are still required to comply with the SMP. Exemptions are issued in writing by the city after the submission of a complete application, including a site plan. Even though an activity is exempt from requiring a Substantial Development Permit, a conditional use or variance permit may be required. Exemptions under the SMP are different than exemptions under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

How does the SMP affect existing uses and development?

SMP regulations are not retroactive. SMP regulations apply to new developments and uses. Existing uses and developments legally established may be repaired, maintained, and operated. The SMP applies to proposals for expansion or alteration of existing uses and structures. 

Structures and uses that were legally established in the past may become legally nonconforming due to new shoreline rules that are adopted over time. Current SMP regulations allow these previously built structures and established uses to continue as they are presently operating. 

Recent amendments to the SMA especially recognize existing residences that were built consistent with shoreline regulations in effect at the time of construction. Residential structures that were legally established and are used for a conforming use, but that do not meet current SMP standards (e.g. height, buffers, setbacks, etc.), may be considered a conforming structure. The city’s SMP may allow redevelopment, expansion, or replacement of the residential structure if it is consistent with the current SMP. As part of this periodic review and update, the ,ity will be looking at the existing SMP and opportunities consistent with state law to clarify how redevelopment, expansion, or replacement of legally established single-family homes within the shoreline jurisdiction, may occur with mitigation and demonstration there is no net loss of the shoreline ecological functions.

What is public access to shorelines? When is it required?

Public access is a preferred use per the SMA. Public access can be physical access (e.g. trail) and/or visual access (e.g. view corridors). Public access standards apply to new development, not existing development. Generally, new public access is only required for private uses of certain sizes (e.g. large subdivisions, resorts, etc.) and are required for public uses. Public access requirements do not allow for trespass on private property.

What is No Net Loss?

The SMP guidelines establish the standard of no net loss. No net loss means that over time, the aggregate existing condition of shoreline ecological functions should remain the same as when the SMP is implemented. Simply stated, the no net loss standard is designed to balance the introduction of new impacts to shoreline ecological functions resulting from new development through mitigation sequencing and restoration. The city must achieve this standard through both the SMP planning process and appropriately regulating individual developments as they are proposed in the future. Any amendments to the SMP that may occur through the periodic update process would need to comply with the no net loss standard.

How can I get more information?


Margaret Clark, Principal Planner
City of Federal Way
Community Development Department
33325 8th Avenue South
Federal Way, WA  98003
(253) 835-2646 / margaret.clark@cityoffederalway.com


Shoreline Master Program: Periodic Review Public Participation Plan


The City of Federal Way is undertaking a periodic review of its Shoreline Master Program (SMP), as required by the Washington state Shoreline Management Act (SMA), RCW 90.58.080(4). The SMA requires each SMP be reviewed, and revised if needed, on an eight-year schedule established by the state Legislature. The review ensures the SMP stays current with changes in laws and rules, remains consistent with other Federal Way plans and regulations, and is responsive to changed circumstances, new information, and improved data.

The purpose of this Public Participation Plan is to describe how Federal Way will encourage early and continuous public input throughout the SMP review process, including the steps that Federal Way will take to provide opportunities for public engagement and public comment, as well as Federal Way contact information and web addresses.

This plan is a working document and will be adjusted as needed to provide for the greatest and broadest public participation over the course of the periodic review process.

1.0  Public Participation Goals

  • Provide interested parties with timely information, an understanding of the process, and multiple opportunities to review and comment on proposed amendments to the SMP.
  • Actively solicit information from citizens, property owners, and stakeholders about their concerns, questions, and priorities for the periodic review process.
  • Encourage interested parties to informally review and comment on proposed changes to the SMP throughout the process and provide those comments to decision makers.
  • Provide forums for formal public input at project milestones prior to decision-making by local officials.
  • Consult and consider recommendations from neighboring jurisdictions, federal and state agencies, and Native American tribes.

2.0 Public Participation Opportunities

Federal Way is committed to providing multiple opportunities for public participation throughout the process and will use a variety of communication tools to inform the public and encourage participation, including the following:

 2.1 Website

Federal Way’s website will include a periodic review webpage where interested parties can access status updates, draft documents, official notices, minutes and other project information. It can be found at: http://www.cityoffederalway.com. The webpage will be the primary repository of all information related to the periodic review process, including draft documents, official notices, a Frequently Asked Questions section, and other project information. The page will include who to contact for more information and an email link for questions and comments.

2.2 Notice Mailing List

An email list of interested parties will be created, advertised, and maintained by the Department of Community Development (DCD) and will be used to notify interested parties regarding periodic review progress and participation opportunities. Interested parties can be added to the list by contacting Principal Planner Margaret H. Clark at (253) 835-2646, or Margaret.Clark@cityoffederalway.com.

2.3 Open House

Federal Way will initiate the periodic review with a community open house in January (date to be determined.) The date will be posted on the website and a notice will be posted in the Mirror, and on the public notice boards at City Hall and the two libraries. Public comments received during the open house will be posted on the periodic review webpage.

2.4 Public Comment Periods and Hearings

The Planning Commission and the Land Use/Transportation Committee will be the primary forums for detailed review and recommendations to the Federal Way City Council. The Planning Commission will conduct a public comment period and at least one public hearing to solicit input on the periodic review. Prior to the hearing, the Planning Commission will hold  a study session to discuss the periodic review and proposed SMP revisions. This meeting will also be open to the public.

 Public comments can also be provided at the Land Use/Transportation Committee meeting which follows the Planning Commission public hearing and at the City Council meeting where final adoption will occur.

The date and time of all public hearings and meetings will be posted on the SMP website and noticed in the Mirror and on the public notice boards at City Hall and the two libraries. Public notice of all hearings will state who is holding the comment period and/or hearing, the date and time, and the location of any public hearing. A notice will be sent to the email list (2.2, above) and the Department of Ecology.

Federal Way will coordinate with the Department of Ecology on public notification of comment periods and hearings to take advantage of Ecology’s optional SMP amendment process that allows for a combined state-local comment period (WAC 173-26-104). Note: The joint process will be used.

2. 5 Social media

The City of Federal Way will provide notice of public meetings and other opportunities for public participation via its social media accounts, including Facebook, Constant Contact, and Twitter. 

2. 6 Ongoing Comment

All documents under consideration will be available on the periodic review webpage and available for review at Federal Way City Hall. Interested parties will be encouraged to provide comments by letter or e-mail. All comments will be compiled and provided to the City Council and Planning Commission.

3.0 Stakeholders

Federal Way will reach out to the following stakeholders:

Washington Department of Ecology City of Milton
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife City of Des Moines
Army Corps of Engineers City of Edgewood
Muckleshoot Tribe City of Kent
Puyallup Tribe Pierce County
Suquamish Tribe Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group
Earthcorps, Friends of the Hylebos Federal Way Mirror
City of Auburn City of Federal Way Stakeholder’s Master List
City of Fife Known Homeowners’ Associations
City of Tacoma  

4.0 Timeline

The following is a general timeline including anticipated public participation opportunities. Federal Way will coordinate with the Department of Ecology throughout the process. A detailed timeline will be posted on the periodic review webpage.

August SMP Update Work Plan

Public Participation Plan

Website Launch

Press Release in Paper

Stakeholder Outreach

October-December Public comment period on scope of update
January SMP Open House
Febuary-March Environmental reivew (SEPA)

Planning Commission review

Planning Commission public hearing

Public comment period on draft revisions


Planning Commission recommendation to City Council

Land Use/Transportation Committee meeting

City Council review and final action