Community Development

Shoreline Management & Planning

Comprehensive Plan
Unified Development Code (UDC)
Permit Information & Application Forms
Permit Database Search & Map Tools

621 Sheridan Street
Port Townsend,
WA 98368

Phone: 360.379.4450
Fax: 360.379.4451


Monday - Thursday
9:00 to 4:30                     

closed 12:00 - 1:00 for lunch

Fridays, Weekends & Holidays Closed

Contents Found On This Page:


·         Shoreline Management Background

·         Understanding Shoreline Management

·         Shoreline Permits

·         Shoreline Master Program Update 2005-2017

·         More Information and Web Links

            Shoreline Management Background

Jefferson County and the Washington State Department of Ecology jointly administer the 1971 Shoreline Management Act (SMA) in unincorporated Jefferson County.  The overarching goal of the SMA is "to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines."  In Jefferson County, the SMA applies to land use and development proposals in and near all marine waters and certain streams, rivers, and lakes. Jefferson County shoreline regulations are in the Shoreline Master Program (SMP), are located in Chapter 18.25 of the Jefferson County Code (JCC) and are consistent with Chapter 90.58 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

·         Introduction to the Shoreline Management Act

     (Ecology webpage)

·         What is a Shoreline Master Program? (Ecology introduction)


Understanding Shoreline Management


The SMP is consistent with the State SMA, encouraging coordinated shoreline use, protecting the natural environment, and promoting public access and shoreline enjoyment. The SMP provides policies, regulations, and permit procedures for shoreline development tailored to the unique geographic, economic, community, and environmental needs of Jefferson County.

Does the SMP Apply?

Policies and development standards of the SMP apply to all marine shorelines and many rivers, streams, and lake shorelines across Jefferson County. Rivers and streams with a mean annual flow rate of 20 cubic feet per second are regulated under the SMP as are lakes over 20 acres in size.

The SMP establishes “shoreline jurisdiction” for the lands along these shorelines, consistent with State law.  Shoreline jurisdiction includes lands within 200 feet of the edge of shoreline (Ordinary High Water Mark, or “OHWM”), associated wetlands and associated flood-plains.

The SMP also establishes Shoreline Environment Designations (SEDs) within shoreline jurisdiction. The SEDs provide a systematic, rational, and equitable basis upon which to guide and regulate use and development within specific shoreline jurisdictional areas.

What Activities are regulated by the SMP?

Any new use or development within the shoreline jurisdiction generally requires county review and permit approval. All shoreline activity must be consistent with current SMP policies and regulations; development is managed in accordance with the SED designation and the type of activity proposed. Legally-established existing uses and development where no expansion is proposed, including interior alteration of homes, maintenance of yards and ongoing agricultural activities are not typically do not need a shoreline permit.

Guidance for Common Shoreline Uses and Development Activities

The following Shoreline Guidance Sheets provide direction for common residential shoreline development and improvement activities:

·         Residential Beach Access Structures

·         Shoreline Erosion and Bank Stabilization

·         Shoreline Buffers and Setbacks

·         Vegetation Management

·         Shoreline Regulations and No Net Loss of Shoreline Ecological Functions

Shoreline Permits

A shoreline permit is necessary when the proposal meets the definition of development and occurs within shoreline jurisdiction. A pre-application meeting may be required prior to shoreline application submittal.

The permit processing timeline and fees are dependent on the type of shoreline permit and approvals necessary. Jefferson County has up to 120 days to review a permit application and issue a decision. 

For additional information in determining allowed uses,  application processes or requirements:

1.  Contact a DCD Planner by submitting a Customer Assistance form; or

2.  Visit the Permit Information & Application Forms page

Shoreline Master Program Update 2005-2017

Following approval by the Department of Ecology, the Jefferson County SMP update became effective on February 21, 2014 and was codified as Chapter 18.25 JCC.

The updated SMP was appealed by three organizations.  On March 16, 2015, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB) issued a Final Decision and Order that found the SMP update complied with state requirements.  The WWGMHB decision was appealed, and the county is currently waiting on a decision from Washington State Court of Appeals.


More Information and Web Links


Guidance for Shoreline Property Owners Guidance documents are available online which provide easy to understand graphics and content for shoreline property owners below:


·      Your Marine Waterfront

·      Shore Stewards Guide for Shoreline Living

·      WDFW Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines


Additional County, State and Federal Web Links

Additionally, the following are links to other sources of information about shoreline management, shoreline master program development, and coastal and marine resource planning and protection in general:


·         Jefferson County Critical Areas Ordinance

·         Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee

·         WSU Beach Naturalists of Jefferson County

·         WSU Shore Stewards Program - Jefferson County


·         1971 Shoreline Management Act

·         2003 and 2011 Shoreline Master Program Guidelines

·         State Department of Ecology Shorelands & Environmental Assistance (SEA) Program

·         Ecology Citizen Guide for Jefferson County’s SMP

·         Washington Shoreline/Coastal Planners Group

·         Puget Sound Partnership

·         Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership

·         Washington Sea Grant


·         National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

·         NOAA Coastal Zone Management Program



Best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later
Windows - Mac