Public comment is being sought through Dec. 3 on what are being called “significant revisions that Grays Harbor County is seeking to make” to its Shoreline Master Program (SMP) — similar to the updated review process now being completed by the city of Ocean Shores and approved by the state Department of Ecology.
According to Ecology, which oversees the process, the locally tailored set of land-use policies and regulations are designed to protect and guide how the county will develop, restore, and preserve more than 1,200 miles of marine and freshwater shorelines in and around the Grays Harbor estuary, the Pacific Ocean coastline and numerous rivers and streams. River shorelines in the county include the Chehalis, Hoquiam, Humptulips, Copalis, Moclips, North, Elk, John, Quinault, Satsop, Wishkah, and Wynoochee rivers. Six lakes also are part of the update.
Grays Harbor County last amended its SMP in 1991. The proposed updated master program is designed to:
• Prioritize water-oriented uses and development in Grays Harbor County.
• Provide for public access to public waters and shorelines.
• Support restoration actions consistent with the county’s shoreline restoration plan.
• Incorporate critical area regulations to ensure environmentally-sensitive areas within the county’s shoreline jurisdiction are protected.
Ocean Shores completed its revised SMP earlier this year and the City Council on Tuesday was meeting to approve the final revisions after the plan was reviewed by the Department of Ecology and other related state agencies. The latest revisions were to bring city zoning code into conformance with Shoreline Master Program regulations on issues such as the building and placement of docks and bulkheads, setback requirements for buildings near the shoreline, or other things such as floats, piers and boathouses.
“In the event there is a conflict between the provisions of the Shoreline Master Plan and any other city ordinance or DOE provision, the provisions of the Shoreline Master Plan shall control,” a new city ordinance now states.
As part of the larger Grays Harbor shoreline plan update process, the county also is updating its Critical Areas Protection Ordinance, which is the prelude for completing the SMP. Groups and citizens already have commented on that process, being managed by the Grays Harbor County Planning Division. Members of the original Shoreline Planning Committee for the county, which completed its draft document last year, included 20 people from around Grays Harbor, including Brady Engval of Brady’s Oysters, Casey Dennehy of Surfrider, former County Commissioners Frank Gordon and Terry Willis, current Commissioner Wes Cormier, and Arthur (R.D.) Grunbaum of Friends of Grays Harbor (FOGH).
FOGH specifically raised concerns the Critical Areas update “does not adequately address sea level change.”
“While all the science has not been finalized, it is clear that this will be a significant challenge to the county’s future planning along our coasts, the estuary and riparian shoreline,” Grunaum wrote in FOGH’s comments on the final draft of the critical areas update.
“We remind the board that we have tangible reminders of the impacts of erosion and other hazards in the moving of the Quinault Nation Village and similar concerns for the Shoalwater Bay Tribe,” he added.
Another organization, Futurewise, highlighted a number of provisions it supports as a group that encourages land-use policies statewide that “protect our most valuable farmlands, forests and water resources.” Some of those include proposed wetland buffers, standards for tsunami hazard areas, and identifying all areas of geological hazards, including landslides.
Grays Harbor County’s update “is clearly written and contains many helpful protections for water quality, people, property and the environment,” Futurewise said in its comments on the final critical areas draft document.
“We strongly support the improvements to protect people and property from geologic hazards. This will help reduce risks … in new developments,” the group said.
County SMP documents
Draft review documents for the county plan are available online through the Department of Ecology website: https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/Shoreline-coastal-management/Shoreline-coastal-planning/Status-of-local-Shoreline-Master-Programs-SMP/Grays-Harbor-County.
The documents also are available by appointment at the county Department of Public Services – Planning and Building Division, 100 West Broadway, Suite 31, Montesano, WA 98563. To schedule an appointment, contact Jane Hewitt at Grays Harbor County (360) 249-4222.
Comment by Dec. 3
Comments may be submitted online or by mail sent to: Kim Van Zwalenburg, Department of Ecology Southwest Regional Office, PO Box 47775, Olympia, WA, 98504-7775.
Ocean Shores SMP
Access the document, which was approved by the Ocean Shores City Council on Tuesday, at this Department of Ecology online link: https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/Shoreline-coastal-management/Shoreline-coastal-planning/Status-of-local-Shoreline-Master-Programs-SMP/Ocean-Shores