The Washington Department of Ecology has approved Jefferson County’s updated shoreline master program.
The county’s shoreline program will result in significant improvements in the water quality, protection, use, development and restoration of about 250 miles of marine shorelines including Hood Canal and the Strait of Juan de Fuca; roughly 600 miles of river shorelines, including portions of the Quinault, Hoh, Elwha and Dungeness rivers; as well as along the shores of numerous lakes and streams.
Jefferson County is one of nearly 90 local governments that have completed shoreline program updates. The new master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.
Before they can take effect, each locally-tailored city and county shoreline master program must be approved by Ecology to affirm compliance with the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act (SMA) and the most current shoreline master program regulations.
About 150 cities and counties statewide are in the process of, or soon will be, updating or crafting their master programs.
“We are pleased with how the new shoreline program addresses net pens and establishes local controls that include a conditional use permitting process,” said Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest and Olympic Region director.
The conditional use permit process allows the county to evaluate proposals based on site-specific concerns, and to require mitigation or use other measures to offset impacts. Any permit application would also trigger an environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act.
Shoreline master programs are the cornerstone of the SMA. 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.
“It’s very impressive how Jefferson County brought diverse local interests to the table to work collaboratively through tough issues,” Toteff said.
Jefferson County conducted extensive public outreach and facilitated technical and policy advisory committees. The committees included shoreline property owners and experts from various disciplines and agencies.
The county’s shoreline master program:
-Provides shoreline regulations that are integrated with the Jefferson County growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.
-Limits new stair towers in landslide hazard and feeder bluff areas.
-Limits the length of new residential docks and piers.
-Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring such as bulkheads.
-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.
Once approved by Ecology, the local shoreline plan becomes part of the state shoreline master program. If needed, the department will help defend Jefferson County’s shoreline program against legal challenges.
All of Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines are updating their programs to meet a December 2014 deadline. They are following regulations adopted in 2003 that 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.
Press Release, February 11, 2014