Pacific County to amend Shoreline Master Plan

By KAYLA CAMENZIND


Documents provided by the county explain that the county’s SMP is in need of an update. “Since its initial adoption, the county has experienced significant changes in development patterns and community priorities. It is a good time to test whether our current vision, goals, policies, and regulations for managing Pacific County’s shorelines are still valid,” one document explains.

The new guidelines provided by the state for the plan will introduce six concepts:

1) The development of a SMP will make use of existing scientific and technical information about shorelines of the state,

2) Each jurisdiction will need to adapt its policies and regulations to changing conditions by monitoring and periodically updating its SMP,

3) Future development must ensure there is no net loss of current ecological functions along shorelines,

4) Future development along shorelines must protect the environment and give locational priority to the following uses in this order: a) water-dependent and associated water-related uses; b) mixed-use development that include and support water-dependent uses; c) water-related and water-enjoyment uses; and d)single-family residential uses where appropriate,

5) Impact mitigation will be necessary for projects that exceed development standards set in the SMP, and

6) SMPs will include a voluntary shoreline restoration strategy aimed at improving shoreline ecological function over time.”

Pacific County Community Development Assistant Director Tim Crose explained that the update is currently in the “Shoreline Inventory, Analysis, and Characterization Report” phase, in which the county studies the current ecological conditions of the shoreline. “The county has hired the Watershed Group, a consulting company, to gather data from various sources and prepare a draft map and characterization report of the shoreline. This information is crucial for developing the foundation of the new SMP.”

This report should be completed by October 2014.

According to Crose, the concept that could produce the most change in the current plan is the “no net loss of current ecological functions” guideline.

The Shoreline Inventory and Characterization Report will provide a baseline of shoreline value and function,” Crose explained. “The new SMP will be reviewed every eight years to see if policies and regulations have been effective in achieving no net loss of shoreline value and function.”

Documents provided by the county explain that the SMP does not work retroactively – “this means exiting homes are not ‘out of compliance’ with new shoreline master program regulations,” one document explains. The SMP will not require alterations to existing agricultural uses/activities or land developments. However, modifications, expansions, and new activities on properties within the shore lands included in the plan will have to be reviewed case-by-case.

Crose explained that there will most likely be new shore lands included in the update: “The new guidelines state that every lake 20 acres or greater and [every] stream with a mean flow of 20 cubic feet per second will be included in Shoreline Jurisdiction (SJ). SJ extends out 200 feet from the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) of these waters. Floodplains can also be included in SJ if a county so chooses.”

These guidelines will affect a number of citizens who own land on the SJ. “If a private landowner holds water front property within shoreline jurisdiction, the SMP regulations will dictate how, what, and where a landowner can develop their property along the shoreline,” Crose said.

The amendment will address county-specific issues, including the North River float houses. “The county is anticipating taking over this leasing process from DNR once the SMP is adopted. Other issues involve water quality, the shellfish industry, and development along the shoreline.”

Washington State’s SMP is unique as it allows counties to create and regulate localized plans, while the department of Ecology merely reviews and authorizes them. Throughout this update process, the county is inviting public comments and suggestions for the plan.

The largest complaint that we get is ‘We put in the time and effort to participate in the process and our comments get overrun by DOE or other agencies with their own agendas’,” Crose said. “Valid concern, but I have seen examples in other jurisdictions where communities have come together and pushed through their visions and goals for shoreline protection or development. Gig Harbor is one example. . . The public needs to participate in processes to correct errors specific to their property and bring local knowledge to the table.”

No date is yet set for the next meeting, which will take place around July. Email your comments and questions to smp@co.pacific.wa.us.