USA: Tacoma Shoreline Program Gains Ecology Approval

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved Tacoma’s updated shoreline master program.

Tacoma’s program will guide future development along approximately 46 miles of shoreline including Commencement Bay, the Tacoma Narrows and portions of the Puyallup River, Hylebos Creek and Wapato Lake.

Sally Toteff, director of Ecology’s southwest region, said: “Through Tacoma’s updated master program the city can now truly achieve its vision for the shorelines of Tacoma. Our shorelines make Washington a great place to live. Tacoma’s master program will help protect the economic and environmental health of our waters including Puget Sound. By working together, we can all protect our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as for future generations.”

As part of the city’s update, the city developed a Public Access Alternatives Plan that comprehensively looks at Tacoma’s shorelines, identifies existing types of access such as views, trails and boating, and sets priorities for future public access, Toteff added.

Toteff noted that the city’s planning process brought diverse interests to the table, from city residents to business interests to environmental groups. Tacoma’s collaborative process also included waterfront property owners, neighborhood groups, the Port of Tacoma, and state and local resource agency staff.

Tacoma is one of 85 local governments that have completed their updates. The updated master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.

About 150 cities and counties statewide are in the process of — or soon will be updating or 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.

Tacoma’s shoreline master program addresses future development and uses along the city’s waterfront areas. It provides for marine buffers and accommodates public access consistent with the city’s comprehensive Public Access Alternatives Plan. It also encourages restoration actions consistent with the Restoration Plan.

Under state law, the local shoreline plan must be approved by Ecology before taking effect. It then becomes part of the state shoreline master program. If needed, the department will help defend Tacoma’s shoreline program against legal challenges.

All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014. They are following regulations adopted by Ecology in 2003. The regulations resulted from a negotiated settlement among 58 different parties including business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology and the courts.

Toteff said: “Our shorelines make Washington a great place to live. Tacoma’s master program will help protect the economic and environmental health of our waters including Puget Sound. By working together, we can all protect our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as for future generations.”

Press Release, October 15, 2013

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