USA: Ecology Commences Review of Burlington’s Shoreline Program

Ecology Commences Review of Burlington's Shoreline Program

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) seeks public comment on Burlington’s recently updated Shoreline Master Program, a landmark effort that will significantly increase protection and restoration of area shorelines and water quality.

The updated master program guides construction and development in the city’s roughly three miles of Skagit River shoreline. It combines local plans for future development and preservation with new development ordinances and related permitting requirements.

Under Washington’s voter-approved Shoreline Management Act, Ecology must review and approve Burlington’s program before it takes effect.

Ecology will accept public comment on Burlington’s shoreline program through March 15, 2013.

Ecology may approve the shoreline program as written, reject it or direct the city to modify specific parts. Once approved by Ecology, Burlington’s shoreline program will become part of the overall state shoreline master program. Ecology also will help each local jurisdiction legally defend its shoreline program if necessary.

Burlington’s updated shoreline program was adopted by the city council after an extensive local process. The update began with a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions to preserve existing shoreline areas while protecting future economic development. Burlington collaborated over three years with waterfront property owners, environmental interests, local governments, tribes and state agencies.

Shoreline master programs are a cornerstone of the state Shoreline Management Act passed by voters in 1972. The programs help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses and reduce interference with the public’s access to public waters and shorelines.

Burlington’s proposed updated master program:

– Integrates the city’s shoreline regulations with its growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.

– Establishes protective buffers with the flexibility to reduce them based on individual property circumstances.

– 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.

Ecology adopted new guidelines in 2003 that establish the basic requirements for updating local shoreline master programs. The guidelines resulted from a negotiated settlement among business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology, and the courts.

Burlington joins a growing number of cities, towns and counties that have updated their shoreline program using the 2003 guidelines. The state guidelines allow each town, city and county flexibility to customize their program regulations to fit its local land-use circumstances and vision of local waterfront development.

All of Washington’s more than 260 cities, towns and counties with shorelines must update their shoreline programs by December 2014.

[mappress]

Press Release, February 25, 2013

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