USA: Ecology Approves Bellingham’s Shoreline Master Program
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved Bellingham’s updated shoreline master program, helping protect 38 miles of shorelines along rivers, lakes and streams in the city.
“The city has done a valuable thing by updating their plans,” said Geoff Tallent, Ecology’s regional supervisor of shorelines program. “Our shorelines are what make this such a great state to live in. We treasure them and want to protect them for ourselves, our children and future generations.”
Bellingham recently completed its updates as required by the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act. The law requires cities and counties to regularly update their programs.
The update combines local development and preservation plans with new ordinances and permit requirements. This helps minimize environmental damage, reserves areas, and protects the public’s right to public lands and waters.
As part of the update, Bellingham took a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. The city also included in its process waterfront property owners, scientists, non-profit organizations, tribal government representatives, agricultural interests, and state and local resource agency staff.
“We’re excited to implement the new updates,” said Bellingham planner Steve Sundin. “They include increased protection for Lake Whatcom, our drinking water reservoir. Take into account our massive planning process for the central waterfront. And allow us to implement our restoration plan to improve the ecological function of our shorelines.”
Bellingham’s shoreline master program:
– 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.
– Establishes protective buffers (areas to be protected from development) of 0 to 250 feet with flexibility based on individual property circumstances.
– Limits the length of new residential docks and piers to the minimum necessary, and not to exceed the average length of neighboring docks and piers.
– Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring.
– Includes a restoration plan showing where and how voluntary improvements in water and upland areas can enhance the local shoreline environment.
– Helps support the broader initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.
Under state law, Ecology must approve the local shoreline plan before it takes effect. Once approved, it becomes part of the state shoreline master program. And Ecology will help defend the city’s program against legal challenges.
All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014.
Press Release, February 6, 2013