The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved the City of Vancouver’s updated shoreline master program.
Vancouver’s shoreline program will result in significant improvements in the protection, use, development and restoration of 26 miles of shorelines and improve the water quality of many river, stream and lake shores, including those along the Columbia River, Salmon Creek, Burnt Bridge Creek and Vancouver Lake. The program also takes into account the 32 miles of shoreline in the city’s urban growth area. If any of these areas are annexed, the rules in the program will seamlessly be applied upon annexation.
Chad Eiken, Community and Economic Development Director of the City of Vancouver, said: “One of the significant changes is that all across the state, critical areas near shorelines are now regulated by the shoreline rules. Now, businesses, homeowners and builders only need to get one permit instead of two.”
Vancouver is one of more than 54 local governments that have completed updates. The updated master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.
Ecology’s Southwest Regional Director Sally Toteff said: “Shorelines are important to both the quality of life and the economy in Washington. Protecting and preserving them helps improve water quality and ensure our state is a great place to prosper, live and play.”
About 200 cities and counties statewide are in the process of updating or soon will be crafting their master programs under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act.
Shoreline master programs are the cornerstone of the act. The law requires cities and counties with regulated shorelines to develop and periodically update their locally-tailored programs to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses, and protect the public’s right to public lands and waters.
Vancouver led a coalition of Clark County’s jurisdictions – Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt – through a collaborative process that focused on watersheds rather than jurisdictional boundaries, resulting in greater consistency in shoreline management countywide. The coalition’s process brought diverse local interests to the table. These groups included waterfront property owners, scientists, non-profit organizations, ports, businesses and state and local resource agency staff. The update began with a thorough inventory and analysis of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions and was completed with consultant support and a grant from Ecology.
Vancouver’s updated master program:
- Limits construction of new shoreline armoring, meaning structures that harden shorelines.
- Encourages voluntary improvements in water and upland areas to enhance the local shoreline environment.
- Was developed as part of a coordinated effort with Clark County and six other cities.
- Pre-plans for shorelines within the city’s urban growth areas.
- Provides shoreline regulations that are integrated with the city’s growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.
- Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods that protect property and habitat.
- Retains native vegetation along shorelines.
State law gives Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant final approval authority for each city and county shoreline program, which then becomes part of the state shoreline master program. If needed, Ecology will help defend Vancouver’s shoreline program against legal challenges.
Press Release, September 17, 2012