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Shoreline Managment Act

The Shoreline Management Act (SMA), RCW 90.58 provides a statewide framework for managing, accessing, and protecting the Washington’s significant shorelines including rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Passed by the Washington State Legislature in 1971, the SMA reflects the strong interest of the public in our shorelines and waterways for recreation, protection of natural areas, aesthetics, and commerce.

Our shorelines are also the location of significant cultural resources.  For thousands of years Native Americans have used shorelines for homes, workplaces, transportation, and managing resources. Upon arrival in the Northwest in the late 18th century, Euro-American cultures have used shorelines in the same way, and often in the same place. The SMA recognizes that in addition to protecting natural resources, cultural resources found in shoreline environments also merit protection and appropriate management by the State and local governments. As a result, RCW  90.58.100 requires that each Shoreline Master Program (SMP) developed by local jurisdictions include “An historic, cultural, scientific, and educational element for the protection and restoration of buildings, sites, and areas having historic, cultural, scientific, or educational values”.

To aid communities that are drafting or updating their SMP, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation has prepared model language for a cultural resources element.   The model element is provided for communities to incorporate in their SMP to satisfy the requirement for the program to protect cultural resources within local shoreline zones. This document is intended as sample language only; jurisdictions are welcome to modify it as appropriate to fit local shoreline and planning goals, policies, procedures, and timelines.

For questions about protecting cultural resources in local shoreline master programs and/or the model SMP element, contact DAHP’s Environmental Review staff.  For general questions about the Shoreline Management Act and Shoreline Master Programs, visit the Department of Ecology SMA website at

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