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

Commissioners get, give an earful on SMP


Rick Nelson

Lily Kolditz, standing, joined other citizens in voicing concern that the county's proposed update of its shoreline master program will adversely affect property rights; she and others suggested the county commissioners write a program more reflective of local needs.

Critics of Wahkiakum County's proposed update of the Wahkiakum County shoreline management program (SMP) had their chance Tuesday to voice objections to the county board of commissioners.

In a public hearing for comment on the proposed program, citizens said the loosely written document was too open to interpretation; that the requirements of wetland buffers would most likely prevent any new use of the land, and that is essentially a taking of private property.

Some speakers urged the board to form a committee who could write a shoreline program that would take Wahkiakum's needs into better account.

Commissioners Dan Cothren and Blair Brady both said they couldn't approve the proposed program as it was presented. Commissioner Mike Backman is in Alaska and listened to the comments by telephone and didn't comment. Commissioners said they would review the comments with Public Works Director Chuck Beyer and go from there.

The goal of the state shoreline act is "to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state's shorelines."

As Planning Commission Chairman Gene Healy pointed out, the act mandates no net loss of ecological function along shorelines.

It also encourages public shoreline access and appropriate shoreline development.

"One of the things to keep in mind is that you either believe in no net loss of ecological function, or you don't," Healy said, "and the plan you have before you has that in the preamble."

The shoreline program is applied to land within 200 feet of a shoreline, and the public expressed concern that connected wetlands would extend jurisdiction far inland.

"Our draft SHP includes wetlands and associated buffers which are outside of the 200 foot shorelines boundary," said Salmon Creek resident Chuck Hendrickson. "The Revised Code of Washington does not require us to include those areas.

"The impact of including these areas when we are not required is huge. I'm guessing that at least half of the land areas impacted by the draft SMP is actually outside the 200 foot boundary."

Hendrickson added that as he read the draft, it would prohibit new bridges and culverts on logging roads.

He suggested studying programs from other counties to see how they handled the issues.

Rosburg resident Poul Toftemark commented that he had been a planning commission member and worked on the plan, but he had resigned because he felt there was no room for local input.

"On way too many occasions we were told the EPA and the state wouldn't go along with us," he said. "I got disgusted with it. I felt we truly didn't have anything to say on it."

Nick Nikkila commented that the draft program is a 162 page document with 264 references with vague language. That makes it hard to understand even for an expert.

"At a meeting, there was a lady there from the Department of Ecology," he said. "I asked her, this is so vague, I don't understand how this is supposed to work. She said that by being vague, that gives us flexibility.

"Well, I was an environmental regulator for two and a half decades or so, and if you think flexibility in the long term will be good for anybody other than the regulatory agency, then I've got a bridge in Deep River that I'll sell to you."

Commissioner Cothren said he had received several phone calls from people who were concerned that regulations would prohibit them from developing along their shorelines.

He added that he objects to proposed procedures that would require people applying for permits to develop their land to hire consultants to provide scientific data to support their applications.

Agencies should bear the cost of scientific studies, not the landowners, he said. It would make the cost of building a house or other building prohibitive.

"It's a land grab," he said. "I don't think there's enough money in the world to comply with parts of it.

"We need to come up with something different; we're unique out here."

Commissioner Brady had similar conecerns, and he added he was concerned about the grandfathering provisions.

Under that principle, people can use, repair and replace existing structures. That could happen on one parcel, Brady said, but a new structure might not be permitted on an adjacent parcel.

"That's not equal protection," he said, referring to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Some people commented that the county should start over or revise the program draft to local satisfaction, either by revising the draft or building on the existing program.

"It (the draft program) is so vague that it could be misinterpreted to affect the entire county," said Lily Kolditz. "I really think this can be rewritten with common sense for our county.

"It's an over reach. We shouldn't have to fight our government over rules we had no voice in."

Commissioners agreed to some extent.

"We need to sit down with Chuck Beyer (public works director) and discuss things and see where we can go, kind of refresh our memory on some of the issues that were brought up today and the stuff that I brought up," Cothren said. "Chuck Beyer is our advisor, and I don't want to take anything away from him . . . we'll challenge him, we do, and try to get to where we feel comfortable and our constituents feel comfortable. Until we get there, I can't go anywhere."


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