Stemming from a 1971 voter approved initiative, the plans are intended to guide human activity on shorelines while preserving the environment and maintaining public access to shorelines.
The town and county passed their first shoreline plans in 1975 and last updated them in 1992. The state Department of Ecology has awarded the town and county a $250,000 grant to cover the cost of the upgrade. The grant expires in 2016, and if the update isn't finished, the town and county will have to cover the rest of the cost.
Ecology officials outlined the process with a 90-minute presentation Tuesday.
The town and county have hired the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce as a technical consultant. Next they'll solicit from the public members of an advisory committee to work on the various aspects of the plan. They hope to have that group formed in mid-June.
After that, they'll develop an inventory of shoreline uses and characteristics, and from that, they'll start an analysis of the cumulative impacts of the county's shoreline use. From there, they'll develop a draft shoreline plan, estimated in February, 2015. After a round of community input meetings, they'll go over the documents and create a restoration plan, expected in the fall of 2015. Final revisions should have the document ready for adoption in June, 2016.
State laws regarding shoreline plans have changed since the last update, said Ecology's Michelle McConnell, a shoreline planner.
One new requirement is achieving no net loss (NNL) of shorelines, she said. The local planners will need to consider reasonably forseeable impacts on shorelines and develop management measures that link new development with the mitigation for the developed area.
Commissioners asked if restored land, such as land that has been protected by dike but has the dikes breached to create wetland habitat, could be used to meet the no net loss standard.
McConnell replied that a mitigation project is required and is tied to a specific development. Restoration is voluntary, and restored lands aren't considered for mitigation.
However, the department and federal agencies can work with local jurisdictions to create a mitigation bank of land that could be credited to a development project, said Kim Van Zwalenburg, another Ecology shoreline planner.