Chapter 18S.20


18S.20.010    Purpose.

18S.20.020    Shorelines of Statewide Significance.

18S.20.030    Natural Shoreline Environment Designation (SED). Revised 3/20

18S.20.040    Conservancy Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

18S.20.050    Residential Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

18S.20.060    High Intensity Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

18S.20.070    Aquatic Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

18S.20.010 Purpose.

Shorelines of the State are the total of all shorelines, shorelands, and Shorelines of Statewide Significance within the State as defined in the Shoreline Management Act (Act), Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 90.58. To effectively manage shoreline resources, the County has employed a shoreline classification system that categorizes the shorelines into shoreline environments. These environments are the mechanism for applying appropriate land use policies and regulations to different shoreline areas. This environment classification system is consistent with the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-26-211 guidelines, which state that the classification system shall be based on the existing land use patterns, the biological and physical character of the shoreline, and the goals and aspirations of the community as expressed through comprehensive plans and the criteria in this Chapter.

The environment classification system, together with other County land use regulations, helps to ensure that shoreline development is designed and located to minimize conflicts between the proposed use and stated policies of the applicable shoreline environment. This system encourages development that enhances the character of the environment while placing reasonable standards and restrictions on development that might adversely affect the positive attributes of the environment.

A map depicting the Shoreline Environment Designations (SEDs) can be found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F. Details for interpreting the maps to determine boundaries between different designations can be found in PCC 18S.10.050 H., Maps. The designation boundaries are drawn to coincide with tax parcel boundaries where applicable. The designation boundaries extend above and below the earth's surface on a vertical plane. (Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.020 Shorelines of Statewide Significance.

The Act affords special consideration to Shorelines of Statewide Significance that have greater than regional importance. Preferred uses for Shorelines of Statewide Significance, in order of priority, are to "recognize and protect the statewide interest over local interest; preserve the natural character of the shoreline; result in long-term over short-term benefit; protect the resources and ecology of the shoreline; increase public access to publicly owned shoreline areas; and increase recreational opportunities for the public in the shoreline area." All Shorelines of Statewide Significance in unincorporated Pierce County are also classified as one of five Shoreline Environment Designations (SEDs). Shorelines of Statewide Significance are as follows:

A.    Those areas of Puget Sound and adjacent salt waters between the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) and the line of extreme low tide as follows: Nisqually Delta – from the Thurston County/Pierce County border to Tatsolo Point.

B.    Those areas of Puget Sound, and adjacent salt waters, lying seaward from the line of extreme low tide.

C.    Those lakes, whether natural, artificial, or a combination thereof, with a surface acreage of 1,000 acres or more measured at the OHWM as follows:

1.    Alder Lake.

2.    American Lake.

3.    Lake Tapps.

D.    Those natural rivers, or segments thereof, downstream of a point where the mean annual flow is measured at 1,000 cubic feet per second or more as follows:

1.    Nisqually River: upstream from its mouth on Nisqually Reach to the mouth of Mineral Creek.

2.    Puyallup River: upstream from its mouth at Commencement Bay to the mouth of Carbon River.

3.    White River: upstream from its mouth at Puyallup River to the mouth of Greenwater River.

E.    Those shorelands associated with PCC 18S.20.020 A., C., and D. above.

(Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.030 Natural Shoreline Environment Designation (SED). Revised 3/20

The intent of the Natural SED is to ensure long-term preservation of shorelines that are ecologically intact or minimally degraded, sensitive to human influence, or retain value because of their natural, unaltered condition.

A.    Designation Criteria. The following criteria apply to Natural shoreland areas.

1.    The shoreline is ecologically intact and, therefore, currently performing an important, irreplaceable function or ecosystem-wide process that would be damaged by human activity.

2.    One of the following applies:

a.    The shoreline is considered to represent ecosystems and geologic types that are of particular scientific and educational interest; or

b.    The shoreline is unable to support new development or uses without significant adverse impacts to ecological functions or risk to human safety.

3.    Such shoreline areas include largely undisturbed portions of shoreline areas such as wetlands, estuaries, unstable bluffs, coastal dunes, spits, and ecologically intact shoreline habitats.

4.    Ecologically intact shorelines, as used herein, means those shoreline areas that retain the majority of their natural shoreline functions, as evidenced by the shoreline configuration and the presence of native vegetation. Generally, but not necessarily, ecologically intact shorelines are free of structural shoreline modifications, structures, and intensive human uses. In forested areas, they generally include native vegetation with diverse plant communities, multiple canopy layers, and the presence of large woody debris available for recruitment to adjacent water bodies. Recognizing that there is a continuum of ecological conditions ranging from near natural conditions to totally degraded and contaminated sites, this term is intended to delineate those shoreline areas that provide valuable functions for the larger aquatic and terrestrial environments which could be lost or significantly reduced by human development.

5.    The term "ecologically intact shorelines" applies to all shoreline areas meeting the above criteria ranging from larger reaches that may include multiple properties to small areas of a single property and may be inside or outside urban growth areas.

FIGURE 18S.20-1 –
Example of Natural Shoreline Environment

B.    Management Policies.

1.    Any use that would degrade ecological functions, natural features, and overall character of the shoreline area shall not be allowed.

2.    Single-family residential development may be allowed if the density and intensity of the use is limited to protect ecological functions and is consistent with the intent of the natural shoreline environment.

3.    New land divisions shall be developed consistent with low impact development (LID) techniques.

4.    Private and public enjoyment should be facilitated through low-intensity development such as passive, recreational, scientific, historical, cultural, and educational uses; provided, that no net loss in ecological function and processes will result.

5.    Low-intensity aquaculture, agricultural and forestry uses may be allowed when they are limited to ensure no net loss of ecological functions.

6.    Commercial, industrial, multi-family residential, and non water-oriented recreation uses should not be permitted.

7.    New roads, utility corridors, and parking areas should not be permitted, except as necessary to support uses otherwise allowed by this Title.

8.    New development or vegetation removal that would reduce ecological functions or processes should not be permitted.

9.    Scientific, historical, cultural, educational research uses, and low-intensity water-oriented recreational access uses may be allowed; provided, that no significant ecological impact on the area will result.

C.    Maps. Natural Shoreline Environment Designation maps are found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F.

(Ord. 2019-59 § 1 (part), 2019; Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.040 Conservancy Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

The intent of the Conservancy SED is to conserve and manage existing natural resources and valuable historic and cultural areas while providing recreational benefits to the public and while achieving sustained resource utilization and maintenance of floodplain processes. Shoreline ecological functions should be preserved by avoiding development that would be incompatible with existing functions and processes, locating restoration efforts in areas where benefits to ecological functions can be realized, keeping overall intensity of development or use low, and maintaining most of the area's natural character.

A.    Designation Criteria. The Conservancy designation applies to shoreland areas that meet one or more of the following criteria:

1.    The shoreline is currently supporting lesser-intensity resource-based uses, such as agriculture, forestry, or recreational uses, or is designated agricultural or forest lands pursuant to RCW 36.70A.170;

2.    The shoreline is currently accommodating low density residential uses;

3.    The shoreline is supporting human uses but is subject to environmental limitations, such as properties that include or are adjacent to steep banks, feeder bluffs, or floodplains or other flood-prone areas;

4.    The shoreline is of high recreational value or with unique historic or cultural resources; or

5.    The shoreline has predominantly low-intensity water-dependent uses.

6.    Shoreline areas appropriate and planned for development that is compatible with maintaining or restoring of the ecological functions of the area, that are not generally suitable for water-dependent uses and that lie in urban growth areas, or commercial or industrial "limited areas of more intensive rural development" if any of the following characteristics apply:

a.    They are suitable for water-related or water-enjoyment uses;

b.    They are open space, floodplain or other sensitive areas that should not be more intensively developed;

c.    They have potential for ecological restoration;

d.    They retain important ecological functions, even though partially developed; or

e.    They have the potential for development that is compatible with ecological restoration.

FIGURE 18S.20-2 –
Example of Conservancy Shoreline Environment

B.    Management Policies.

1.    Active and passive outdoor recreation activities and resource-based uses such as timber harvesting, aquaculture, and passive agricultural uses such as pasture and range lands shall receive priority.

2.    Opportunities for ecological restoration should be pursued, giving priority to the areas with the greatest potential to restore ecosystem-wide processes (the site of naturally occurring physical and geologic processes of erosion, transport, and deposition; and specific chemical processes that shape landforms within a specific shoreline ecosystem and determine both the types of habitat and the associated ecological functions) and functions.

3.    Development should be limited to that which sustains the shoreline area's physical and biological resources and temporary uses that do not substantially degrade ecological functions or the natural character.

4.    Agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture should be allowed.

5.    Mining, as a unique use due to its inherent relationship to geology, may be an appropriate use when conducted in a manner consistent with the Conservancy SED, and located consistent with mineral resource lands' designation criteria pursuant to applicable provisions of the Growth Management Act, RCW 36.70A.170, and WAC 365-190-070.

6.    Water-dependent and water-enjoyment recreation facilities that do not deplete the resource over time, including but not limited to boating facilities, angling, hunting, wildlife viewing trails, and swimming beaches, may be allowed.

7.    Commercial and industrial development should be limited to water-oriented commercial and industrial development in instances where those uses have been located there in the past, or at unique sites that possess shoreline conditions and services necessary to support the development.

8.    Outstanding recreational or scenic values should be protected from incompatible development.

C.    Maps. Conservancy Shoreline Environment Designation maps are found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F.

(Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.050 Residential Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

The intent of the Residential SED is to accommodate residential development in areas that are already developed with or planned for residential development. The Residential SED may also include water-oriented commercial and recreation uses.

A.    Designation Criteria. The Residential SED applies to shoreland areas that are predominantly single-family or multi-family residential development or are planned and platted for residential development.

FIGURE 18S.20-3 –
Example of Residential Shoreline Environment

B.    Management Policies.

1.    Priority should be given to residential and water-oriented commercial development where such development can be accommodated with no net loss of shoreline ecological functions.

2.    Public or private recreation facilities should be encouraged if compatible with surrounding development. Preferred recreational uses include water-dependent and water-enjoyment recreation facilities that provide opportunities for substantial numbers of people to access and enjoy the shoreline.

3.    Development should be designed to preserve and enhance the visual quality of the shoreline, including views over and through the development from the upland side, and views of the development from the water.

4.    New commercial development should be limited to water-oriented uses. Expansion of existing non water-oriented commercial uses may be permitted; provided, that such uses should create a substantial benefit with respect to the goals and policies of this Title, such as providing improved public access or restoring degraded shorelines.

C.    Maps. Residential Shoreline Environment Designation maps are found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F.

(Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.060 High Intensity Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

The intent of the High Intensity SED is to provide for high-intensity water-oriented commercial, transportation, and industry development that foster economic development while protecting existing shoreline ecological functions, and to restore ecological function on previously degraded sites.

FIGURE 18S.20-4
High Intensity Shoreline Environment

A.    Designation Criteria. The High Intensity SED applies to shoreland areas that currently support high-intensity uses related to commerce, transportation or navigation; or are suitable and planned for high-intensity water-oriented uses.

B.    Management Policies.

1.    The first priority for development shall be intensive water-dependent uses. The second priority shall be water-related and recreational uses.

2.    Development shall be designed to ensure no net loss of ecological functions. Some instances may involve off-site mitigation outside of the High Intensity SED due to site limitations and the need for effective mitigation measures.

3.    Visual and physical access should be required where feasible and where public safety can be assured.

4.    Aesthetic objectives should be implemented by means such as sign control regulations, appropriate location of development, screening and architectural standards, and maintenance of natural vegetative buffers.

5.    Non water-oriented uses should not be allowed except as part of a mixed-use development.

6.    Non water-oriented uses may also be allowed in limited situations where they do not conflict with or limit opportunities for water-oriented uses or on sites where there is no direct access to the water's edge. Such situations should be identified in shoreline use analysis or special area planning, as described in WAC 173-26-201(3)(d)(ix).

7.    Where applicable, new development shall include environmental cleanup and restoration of the shoreline in accordance with any relevant State and Federal law.

C.    Maps. High Intensity Shoreline Environment Designation maps are found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F.

(Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)

18S.20.070 Aquatic Shoreline Environment Designation (SED).

The intent of the Aquatic SED is to protect, restore, and manage the unique characteristics and resources of marine and fresh waters.

A.    Designation Criteria. The Aquatic SED applies to all shoreline areas waterward of the ordinary high water mark. The Aquatic SED includes Aquatic Marine and Aquatic Freshwater.

1.    Aquatic Marine applies to all Puget Sound tidal waters. Tidal waters, as used here, includes marine and estuarine waters bounded by the OHWM. Where a stream enters the tidal water, the tidal water is bounded by the extension of the elevation of the marine OHWM within the stream.

2.    Aquatic Freshwater applies to the waters of all rivers, streams and lakes.

B.    Management Policies.

1.    All development on navigable waters and submerged lands should be located and designed to minimize interference with surface navigation, to reduce impacts to public views, and to allow for the safe, unobstructed passage of fish and wildlife, particularly those species dependent on migration.

2.    Development that adversely impacts the ecological functions of marine and freshwater habitats should not be permitted except where necessary to achieve the objectives of RCW 90.58.020, and then only when all identified impacts are mitigated as necessary to assure maintenance of shoreline ecological functions and processes.

3.    Shoreline development and modifications should be designed and managed to prevent degradation of water quality and alteration of natural hydrographic conditions.

4.    New over-water structures should only be permitted for water-dependent uses or public access. The size of new over-water structures should be limited to the minimum necessary to support the structure's intended use.

5.    Multiple uses of the same over-water facility should be encouraged.

6.    Overwater linear public transportation and utility facilities may be allowed when it is the most technically, economically, and environmentally feasible option.

C.    Maps. Aquatic Shoreline Environment Designation maps are found in Chapter 18S.70 PCC – Appendix F.

(Ord. 2018-57s § 1 (part), 2018; Ord. 2013-45s4 § 7 (part), 2015)