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Skip Navigation LinksDepartment of Commerce / Services & Assistance / Local Government / Growth Management Services / Laws and Rules

​Growth Management Act - RCWs



Washington Administrative Code (Rules)

  • Reader Friendly Version of the WACs guiding GMA implementation
  • 365-185 Procedures for management of growth management planning and environmental review fund
  • 365-190 Minimum guidelines to classify agriculture, forest, mineral lands and critical areas
  • 365-195 Best Available Science
  • 365-196 Procedural Criteria for Adopting

Comprehensive Plans and Development Regulations

Ecology Shoreline Guideline WACs

  • 173-26 State master program approval/amendment procedures and master program guidelines
  • 173-27 Shoreline management permit and enforcement procedures

​Growth Management Laws and Rules

The Growth Management Act (GMA) establishes state goals, sets deadlines for compliance, and offers direction on how to prepare local comprehensive plans and development regulations and requirements for early and continuous public participation.

The GMA requires state and local governments to manage Washington’s growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans and implementing them through capital investments and development regulations.
Public Hearing Notice on GMA Rule Updates
Date: July 8, 2015 for Voluntary Stewardship Program
Date:  July 23, 2015 Voluntary Reversion for counties seeking reversion to partially planning status

Commerce GMA Rule Amendments 


Commerce is updating rules guiding implementation of the Growth Management Act (GMA).  We are updating rules in two different tracks and have recently adopted new rules.  To sign up for the listserv please go here.


Issue 1:  Voluntary Stewardship Program

Description: Create a new rule for Commerce’s role in the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP), an alternative means for counties to protect critical areas on lands used for agricultural activities.  Commerce is required to develop a rule governing certification of county approaches to protect critical areas on agricultural lands in certain circumstances.  Commerce will work with the Washington State Conservation Commission and a legislatively created Statewide Advisory Committee to develop VSP rules.

See the project webpage for more information.  Updated June 2, 2015

Issue 2:  Reverting to Partially Planning Under the GMA


Description:  In 2014, the Washington State Legislature amended RCW 36.70A.040, .060 and .280, allowing smaller, slow growth counties that originally opted to fully plan under the GMA the option to revert to partially planning status.  Counties and cities must be compliant with the GMA to be eligible to revert to partially planning status.  Commerce is writing WAC rules to implement its role in determining local jurisdiction’s compliance status. 

See the project webpage for more information. Updated July 5, 2015


Issue 3:  Housekeeping Amendments (adopted January 27, 2015)


Description:  The Department of Commerce adopted its “housekeeping amendments” that reflect statutory deadlines for counties and cities to comply with required periodic reviews and evaluation of their comprehensive plans and development regulations. The WAC update also clarified that the definition of “critical areas” exclude irrigation ditches.   

Adopted Rule Text:  WAC 365-190 and WAC 365-196

Concise Explanatory Statement and Response to Comments for the adoption of amendments to Growth Management Act Rules:  See the statement page

How to get involved:

Subscribe to the WAC Update ListServ for updates on the status of rule development and opportunities for public comment.  Please e-mail comments or questions to or call Dave Andersen at 509.434.4491.


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