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Oregon's Coastal Planning Goals

Estuaries, coastal shorelands, beaches and dunes and ocean resources are defining features of the Oregon coast. They attract people from across the country and around the world to recreate, live and work. Local economies depend on the ecological health and aesthetic integrity of these unique and fragile resources.

The comprehensive plans and land use regulations for coastal communities address Goal 16, Estuaries; Goal 17 Coastal Shorelands; and Goal 18 Beaches and Dunes. Ocean Resources are covered by Goal 19, which is the responsibility of the state and federal governments rather than local communities.

Statewide Planning Goal 16, Estuarine Resources

Download the full text of Goal 16 here

Statewide Planning Goal 16 provides the principal guidance for the planning and management of Oregon's estuaries. The overall objective of Goal 16 is to "to recognize and protect the unique environmental, economic and social values of each estuary and associated wetlands". The goal also seeks to "protect, maintain, where appropriate develop, and where appropriate restore the long term environmental, economic and social values, diversity and benefits of Oregon's estuaries". To accomplish this, the goal establishes detailed requirements for the preparation of plans and for the review of individual development projects and calls for coordinated management by local, state and federal agencies that regulate or have an interest in activities in Oregon's estuaries.

The goal requires individual estuary plans to designate appropriate uses for different areas within each estuary based on biological and physical characteristics and features, and to provide for review of proposed estuarine alterations to assure that they are consistent with overall management objectives and that adverse impacts are minimized.

Most Goal 16 requirements are implemented through locally adopted estuary plans, but some are applied by state agencies through their review of various permit applications.

The Estuary Planning page provides more information on this topic.

Statewide Planning Goal 17, Coastal Shorelands

Download the full text of Goal 17 here

Statewide Planning Goal 17 sets out planning and management requirements for lands bordering estuaries (as well lands bordering the ocean shore and coastal lakes). In general, the requirements of Goal 17 apply in combination with other planning goals to direct the appropriate use of shoreland areas. The provisions of Goal 17 are specifically focused on the protection and management of resources unique to shoreland areas; examples of such resources include areas of significant shoreland habitat, lands especially suited for water dependent uses, lands providing public access to coastal waters, and potential restoration or mitigation sites.

The goal emphasizes the management of shoreland areas and resources in a manner that is compatible with the characteristics of the adjacent coastal waters. Goal 17 requirements are implemented primarily through local comprehensive plans and zoning.

Water Dependent Shorelands Rule

Goal 17 requires shorelands "especially suited for water dependent uses" be protected for such uses, and that local zoning regulations prevent the establishment of uses which would preempt the availability of such lands for water dependent development. In 1999, LCDC adopted an administrative rule to provide additional guidance for implementing this Goal 17 requirement. Known as the "water dependent shorelands rule", OAR 660 Division 37 establishes a methodology for calculating the minimum amount of shorelands to be protected for water dependent and also provides more detailed guidance on the qualifications of shorelands suitable for water dependent uses, as well as suggested land use regulations and standards appropriate for the protection of these shoreland sites.

Statewide Planning Goal 18, Beaches and Dunes

Download the full text of Goal 18 here

Goal 18: Pre-1977 Development Focus Group

Ocean-fronting Public Road Protection Rulemaking

Beaches and dunes are physical environments at the very edge of the sea. These environments are highly dynamic as sand and gravel are moved by wind, waves, and currents. They serve as buffers between the energy of the ocean and the land. Beaches and dunes also provide the public with recreational opportunities.

Statewide Planning Goal 18 focuses on conserving and protecting Oregon's beach and dune resources, and on recognizing and reducing exposure to hazards in this dynamic environment. Goal 18 is central to the work of coastal communities in addressing the impacts of coastal hazards and climate change in areas along the ocean shore.

Local governments are required to inventory beaches and dunes and describe the stability, movement, groundwater resources, hazards and values of the beach, dune, and interdune areas. Local governments must then apply appropriate beach and dune policies for use in these areas.

The following requirements are of particular importance:

  • Prohibition Areas: The goal prohibits development on the most sensitive and hazardous landforms in the beach and dune environment, including beaches, active foredunes and other dune areas subject to severe erosion or flooding. This requirement has been instrumental in preventing inappropriate development on these critical landforms.
  • Shoreline Armoring: The goal limits the placement of beachfront protective structures (i.e. shoreline armoring such as riprap and seawalls) to those areas where development existed prior to 1977. This policy effectively places a cap on the amount of ocean shore that may be hardened, and thus limits the cumulative impacts of such hardening.
    • Shoreline armoring can cause scouring and lowering of the beach profile, which can result over time in the loss of access to Oregon's public beaches. New development must account for shoreline erosion through non-structural approaches (e.g. increased setbacks). In the face of increased ocean erosion occurring in conjunction with climate change and sea level rise, limiting hard structures and allowing natural shoreline migration is a critical policy tool for conserving and maintaining Oregon's ocean beaches.
  • Dune Grading: The goal specifies detailed requirements for foredune grading (lowering of the dunes for views). Such grading is permitted in limited circumstances in association with existing development. It must be based on a specific dune system management plan that prescribes standards for maintaining flood protection, maintaining overall system sand supply, and post-grading sand stabilization (e.g. planting of beach grass). There are currently six official dune management plans in place in Oregon.

Ocean Shore Regulation

Oregon's ocean beaches are managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) which has an extensive permitting program for shoreline protection under ORS 390.605 – 770, also known as the "Beach Bill." OPRD regulates activities affecting the ocean shorelands west of the statutory vegetation line or the line of established vegetation, whichever is most landward. This includes beachfront protective structures, stairways, walkways, or other structures that encroach on the public beach. OPRD has incorporated the Oregon Department of State Lands authority to regulate removal and fill activities along the ocean shore under its permit program. Permitted activities must be consistent with the Statewide Planning Goals (especially Goal 18), local comprehensive plans, and with the OPRD Ocean Shores Management Plan.

Statewide Planning Goal 19, Ocean Resources

Download the full text of Goal 19 here

Oregonians have long recognized the diverse ocean resources offered just past the shoreline. The Pacific Ocean offers both commercial and recreational opportunity, and has a profound impact on Oregon's identity. Statewide Planning Goal 19 addresses matters pertaining to open ocean resources and aims "to conserve the long-term values, benefits, and natural resources of the nearshore ocean and the continental shelf."

Goal 19 deals with matters such as dumping dredge spoils and discharge of waste products into the open sea, and prioritizes the protection of renewable marine resources over the development of non-renewable resources. It outlines state interest in conserving resources within the Ocean Stewardship Area, which includes Oregon's territorial sea out to 3 nautical miles as well as the continental margin seaward to the toe of the continental slope, and adjacent ocean areas.

Goal 19 was updated in late 2000 by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. Since 1977 this goal has guided Oregon's policy and management of ocean resources. This is one of the most pertinent "applicable element" of the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) referred to in the law.

Ocean Policies in Context

State statutes and state agency programs that relate to ocean resources are often extensions of programs or statutes that also cover the terrestrial portion of the coastal zone. A description of most of these is provided in Part 1 of the Territorial Sea Plan.


Lisa Phipps
Oregon Coastal Management Program Manager
Phone: 503-812-5448