The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Group pressures board on shorelines


A group of citizens hopes to pressure the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners to fight state mandates before adopting an update to the county's shoreline management program (SMP).

The Wahkiakum Real Property Rights Advisory Board has sent a mailer across the county asking residents to return a portion which tells the board the senders "support their efforts to protect our property rights and say no to the SMP."

Shoreline programs are required by state law. The county's was last updated in 1992, and this proposed update has been in the works for three years.

The county planning commission has gone over the document and recommended, by a close vote, that the county commission adopt it.

On Tuesday, commissioners said they would hold a public hearing on the proposed update on June 27 to collect public input for consideration and action later in the summer.

The real property rights board is a quasi-official board which county commissioners created several years ago in response to citizen desires to comment on land use issues.

On its flyer, the board listed three comments:

1. "The new SMP would impose significant land use restrictions, not only within the 200-foot jurisdiction, but also within any associated wetlands, buffer zones, and critical areas. These restrictions could extend an unlimited distance from a designated waterway."

2. "The property owner would be required to prove, at his/her potentially prohibitive expense, that the development would not adversely affect ecological function."

3. "At the commissioners' meeting held Tuesday, May 9, 2017, your commissioners expressed the concerns we all share. They have fought against the DOE in the past, and with your support they may do so again."

The Eagle was able to contact Michelle McConnell, DOE’s regional shoreline planner who has followed the update’s progress for a response to the points on the flyer.

1. “The county and town’s existing Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) currently regulate land use activities in and near wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, flood areas, aquifers, and geologic hazards that are located inside or outside shoreline jurisdiction,” McConnell said. “These local regulations have been in effect since 2000. The CAOs protect these fragile and valuable natural resources by establishing development standards, including buffers, that also help protect property owners from life-safety risks. Specific regulations identify what uses are allowed in a critical area or its buffer; specific buffer distances range from 25 – 200’ for wetlands with some options to adjust the distance based on site-specific circumstances.”

2. According to County analysis, nearly 50 single-family homes have been permitted along local shorelines in the past decade,” McConnell said. “Property owners and applicants typically bear the cost of development, whether located at the water’s edge or inland. The updated SMP does not change the cost of permits. When project-specific site evaluations are needed, the requirement for using a qualified professional helps ensure that people, property, and the environment are protected.”

3. “Wahkiakum County has a long history of complying with the SMA and has repeatedly indicated support for this SMP Update since 2014,” McConnell commented.


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