County begins review of Shoreline Master Program
August 5, 2021
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday hosted a public hearing to gather input on a proposed update of the county Shoreline Master Program (SMP).
The board held another hearing last night (Wednesday) at Johnson Park in Rosburg. A report of that meeting will appear in the Aug. 12 edition of The Eagle.
The county adopted its shoreline program in the 1970's and amended it in 1981. The county planning commission worked with a planning consultant to draft an update in 2016; county officials and members of the public were dissatisfied with the draft, and county commissioners referred it to the property rights advisory board for further development.
The shoreline program stems from the 1960's environmental protection movement. Washington adopted its Shoreline Protection Act in 1972; its goal was to prevent harm from uncoordinated shoreline development, said advisory board member Nick Nikkila.
The advisory board adopted several goals, he said. These include making the draft more understandable; making sure provisions weren't more stringent than those found in SMP's from other counties; reducing requirements for expensive studies, and addressing concerns of the public.
Among major provisions, the board eliminated language not found in other SMP's; they reduced the size of critical areas which are restricted from development; they increased the authority of the county shoreline administrator; they made distinctions between new and existing agriculture that affect the provisions that apply to agricultural activities, and they recommended provisions that prohibit application of Class B biosolids to land where runoff could go onto land that drains directly into water.
All existing uses are grandfathered into the plan, said advisory board member Chuck Hendrickson. New agricultural uses on land not previously used for agriculture will have more hoops to pass for development.
The program would greatly increase public access to shorelines, but only on public property.
The state's shoreline act eliminates a reasonable use provision, and it limits new single family residences in nature conservancy areas to one per 20 acres. The state act increases the setback for development from 30 to 150 feet and prohibits new floating homes.
Nikkila said the advisory board will consider comments at its September 8 meeting, make any revisions, and present an updated draft to the county board of commissioners for action after that. Once the commissioners have approved a draft, it goes to the Washington Department of Ecology for review. Ecology may ask for more editing before it approves the update.
Nikkila said comments should be sent to the Clerk of the Board of Commissioners, PO Box 586, Cathlamet WA 98612 by August 19. Comments should be in writing and reference specific language in the proposed draft.