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Ellensburg, WA 98926-2887
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Kittitas (pronounced 'KITT-i-tass') County is located in central Washington
State. It spans from the lush forested Cascade Mountains to the upper Yakima River Valley plains and
the Columbia River.
Shoreline master programs carry out the policies of the Shoreline Management Act at the local level, regulating use and development
of shorelines. Local shoreline programs include policies and regulations based on state laws and rules
but tailored to the unique geographic, economic, and environmental needs of each community.
Under the Act, each town, city and county with "shorelines of the state" must develop and adopt its
own shoreline program. "Shorelines of the state" generally refers to rivers, larger lakes, and marine
waterfronts along with their associated shorelands, wetlands, and floodplains.
Updating a shoreline program is a complex and time-consuming process. It is estimated that this
SMP will take one year to complete. Throughout this process, Kittitas County is
required by law to engage and seek input
from the public, interested agencies, and affected tribes.
Development of a shoreline master program begins with an inventory and analysis of all shoreline areas
in a given jurisdiction. Shoreline master programs help
local governments avoid or lessen environmental damage as shoreline areas are developed. Based on current
conditions and long-term needs, shoreline master programs reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented
uses. They promote public access opportunities. Master programs include requirements for new development
to stay well away from flood, landslide, erosion hazard and wetland areas. They are more than simply
plans. A master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and identifies areas appropriate
for restoration and preservation. They include statewide as well as local policies and related specific
In 2003, the state Legislature set up a timetable for local governments to update local shoreline master programs.
The County's SMP was comprehensively updated in 2016 during the regional SMP update that included Kittitas County,
the Cities of Ellensburg and Cle Elum, and the Town of South Cle Elum.
Since voters passed the Act in 1972, Washington's population nearly
doubled from about 3.4 million to 6.7 million. The existing shoreline master program needs to be reviewed
and updated to address current conditions, consider new science, and become better aligned with other
related laws. An effective shoreline master program update will reduce unsustainable development and
provide shoreline land owners with a clearer set of standards.
Local governments are responsible for starting the shoreline master program planning, deciding which
areas are in shoreline jurisdiction, analyzing the present uses and long-term needs for waterfront lands,
and locally adopting a shoreline master program.
During the SMP update, Kittitas County will consult with other agencies, tribal
governments, and interested individuals.
Once the shoreline master program is adopted, the local government (i.e. the county)
will be the shoreline master program administrator. The local government will review new development
proposals and use the permit system to decide what is consistent with state law and the local program.
Each local government adopts its own shoreline master program after a public review and comment period.
Then local government sends the shoreline master program to Ecology, who reviews it for consistency
with state guidelines. Ecology must approve the locally adopted and submitted master program, before
it takes effect. To ensure respect for private property rights, local and state legal authorities are
required to review a shoreline program before formal adoption.
The Shoreline Management
Act requires the state to provide "reasonable and adequate" funding for shoreline master program
updates. Ecology gives the money provided by the Legislature to local governments in the form of grants.
Kittitas County was awarded a grant of $84,000 to be used between 7/1/2020 and 6/30/2021 to fund the
Regional Shoreline Master Program
No. The U.S. Constitution allows state and local governments to limit private property activities provided
it's for a legitimate public benefit and they do not deprive the landowner of all reasonable use of
the property. For example, state and local governments can adopt regulations that prevent sediment from
running off private property and entering a salmon-spawning stream. These regulations protect salmon,
a public resource. In most cases, buffers do not deprive landowners of all reasonable use of their property
and, in fact, all property tends to benefit from reasonable setbacks and buffers. In those limited instances
where the buffer precludes or significantly interferes with a reasonable use, the property owner may
obtain a variance.
No. Updating a local shoreline program only applies to development occurring after adoption. There are
no retroactive shoreline master program requirements.
Provisions in state law allow the repair and maintenance of existing, lawful constructed structures.
The new environmental protection standard for updated shoreline master programs is "no-net-loss of shoreline
ecological functions." While restoration of degraded areas is encouraged, this does not mean all shoreline
areas are required to be made "pristine" or returned to pre-settlement conditions. Local governments
are required to inventory current shoreline conditions - including identifying existing ecological processes
and functions that influence physical and biological conditions. When a shoreline program is adopted,
existing ecological conditions on the ground must be protected while development of shoreline areas
is continued in accordance with adopted regulations. This is accomplished by avoiding or minimizing
the introduction of impacts to ecological functions that result from new shoreline development.
A 2002 state law requires when local shoreline programs are updated, the new standards, setbacks and
buffers do not apply retroactively to existing agricultural development. Updated shoreline program requirements
will however apply to new agricultural activities
located in designated shoreline areas and where agricultural activities are converted to other uses.
Local governments and Ecology implement the Shoreline Management Act using locally-tailored Shoreline
Master Programs. Local governments implement critical areas ordinances under the authority of the state
Growth Management Act. The two laws have many similar requirements for environmental protection but
they are administered with different kinds of regulatory procedures. The two laws also have many similar
and some different objectives for dealing with future land use and development. Integrating Growth Management
and Shoreline Management Act goals, policies, and regulations is required but often difficult to accomplish.
Kittitas County is currently updating its Critical Areas Ordinance.
For additional guidance on the SMP update, see the Department of Ecology’s Shoreline Master Program handbook:
For more frequently asked questions, see the Department of Ecology's Frequently Asked Questions web
Kittitas County has a total area of 2,333 square miles. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 7,959 feet above sea level.