Shoreline Management Plan Periodic Update 2020

Whatcom County will begin its periodic update of our Shoreline Management Plan (WCC Title 23, or SMP) in early 2019. It is anticipated that Council will adopt any proposed amendments by June 2020 (a state deadline). A consultant team—The Watershed Company, in conjunction with Herrera Environmental and Kulshan Services—has been hired to assist the County in this endeavor.

If you would like to be notified of changes or additions to this page, please sign up for the County's "Notify Me" service here and choose the "Planning & Development Services - SMP Update" category.

Contact Us

Interested parties can learn about the process, where to find information, and submit comments, by contacting the Project Manager for this project:

Cliff Strong, Senior Planner
5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

What is a periodic update?

Whatcom County (County) is undertaking a periodic review of its Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), as required by the Washington State Shoreline Management Act, RCW 90.58.080(4). The Shoreline Management Act 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 County plans and regulations, and is responsive to changed circumstances, new information and improved data.

This periodic update will focus on reviewing relevant legislative updates since 2007 and incorporating any applicable amendments; ensuring consistency with regulations for critical areas and flood hazard areas; and improving the overall functionality of the SMP for use by applicants and staff. This periodic update is not required to re-evaluate the ecological baseline that was established as part of the 2007 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, unless deemed appropriate and necessary by the County.

How to Use this Webpage

This webpage will be periodically updated to provide to the public the latest schedule, documents generated, notices of meetings, and other relevant information. We suggested that readers periodically visit it to keep abreast of progress and to obtain the latest information. If you would like to be notified of updates to this page via email or text, please subscribe to our list serve here. Follow the instructions to subscribe, then scroll down to the item called “Planning & Development Services – Shoreline Master Program Update 2020” in the section called News Flash and choose the way you would like to be notified (email or text).

Public Outreach and Participation

The County 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 this website, a list-serve, news releases, public notices, and open houses. The early stages of the process will be used to gather input and outline the extent of the review. The County Council will direct the final scope of the review process based on input from staff, the public, local jurisdictions, tribes and other stakeholders.

Based on the scope, County staff and consultants will draft amendments to the County’s SMP. This will take approximately six months. Draft amendments will then be forwarded to the Planning Commission and made available for public review on the County’s website.

The Planning Commission will hold at least one meeting to discuss the draft SMP amendments. Prior to their review, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to solicit input on the update. Planning Commission meetings are open to the public.

After receiving public comment and evaluating the proposed amendments, the Planning Commission will provide their recommendations to the County Council. The Whatcom County Council also will hold at least one hearing to take public comments before final adoption.

The County plans to take advantage of the optional joint-review process for SMP amendments, which allows for a joint state-local comment period and public hearing (WAC 173-26-104). County staff will coordinate with the Washington State Department of Ecology on public notification of the comment period and hearing(s).

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. Notices will be published per official policy and comply with all other legal requirements, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. A notice will be sent to the County’s email distribution list and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

All documents under consideration will be available on this webpage and at the County’s Planning and Development Services office, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham, WA 98226. Interested parties are encouraged to provide comments by letter or email (to the address provided in section 2.8). All comments will be compiled and provided to the Planning Commission and County Council.

The Public Participation Plan can be found here.


The above is a general timeline of major milestones and anticipated public participation opportunities. This schedule will be updated as dates are finalized or changed.
Dates Action
May 2019 Email and newspaper notifications of process and upcoming open houses
Project website established
June 2019 Open houses to inform the community and gather input :
 - Birch Bay, June 10th, 7-9 pm, at Birch Bay Bible Church 
   4460 Bay Road, Birch Bay
 - Deming, June 19th, 7-9 pm, at Mount Baker High School
   4936 Deming Road, Deming
 - Bellingham, June 25th, 7-9 pm, at Civic Building Garden Room
   322 N Commercial St, Bellingham
July 25, 2019 Planning Commission meeting to review scoping document
August 7, 2019 County Council Natural Resources Committee review of scoping document; motion to approve by Council
January 2020 Open houses (up to 3) to share proposed updates and gather input
February-June 2020 Environmental review (SEPA)
Public comment period
Planning Commission public hearing & review
County Council Public Hearing
Ecology review
County Council review and final action