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Special Management Area (SMA)

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The Special Management Area, or SMA, is the area of the island that is in close proximity to the shoreline. In establishing the SMA in 1975, the Hawai‘i state legislature found that

“it is the state policy to preserve, protect, and where possible, to restore the natural resources of the coastal zone of Hawai‘i,”

and, therefore, that
“special controls on developments within an area along the shoreline are necessary to avoid permanent losses of valuable resources and the foreclosure of management options, and to ensure that adequate access, by dedication or other means, to public owned or used beaches, recreation areas, and natural reserves is provided.” (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 205A, Part II)

To learn more about the Special Management Area and the SMA permitting process, you may wish to view this informational video, as provided by the State Office of Planning.

Is my property in the SMA?

SMA image 1 The actual distance that the Special Management Area extends inland may vary from place to place, but the area has been delineated on a map of each island. A mapping tool has been created by the State Office of Planning to guide the public in determining if their property might be subject to SMA regulations. If you are uncertain, please contact the Hawai‘i County Planning Department East Hawai‘i Office at (808) 961-8288 or West Hawai‘i Office at (808) 323-4770.

Is my property subject to the shoreline setback?

Shoreline setbacks are typically established early in the permitting process, often, though not always, during SMA review. Pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 205A-43(a) and Planning Department Rule 11-5, all lots which abut the shoreline shall have a minimum shoreline setback of 40 feet.

SMA Assessment and Use Permits

The Planning Department shall assess all uses, activities or operations proposed in the SMA. Any activity defined as “development,” pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 205A -22, will require an SMA (Minor or Major) Use Permit. The following application forms are available for your use:

US Army Corps of Engineers Permit Application

Projects involving work in the aquatic environment, including tidal areas and other wetlands, are subject to review by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Follow the above link to the USACE website, which provides access to the permit application.


Please feel free to contact the Hilo Planning Department, at (808) 961-8288, or email with any questions regarding the Special Management Area.

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