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Protecting Puget Sound through Our Shoreline Management Process

by Janine Gates

"As we move forward to protect the Puget Sound, it's all about shorelines. When we get done with it, hopefully we won't need to dink around with it for awhile," says Steven Morrison, Senior Planner with the Thurston Regional Planning Council.

Morrison is spearheading the effort by the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater to update their shoreline policies and regulations as required under the state Shoreline Management Act. The cities are doing this as a joint planning effort coordinated by Thurston Regional Planning Council and all must be accomplished by December 2011.

Progress has been slow but steady. A draft report issued June 2008 titled, "Shoreline Inventory for the Cities of Lacey, Tumwater and Olympia and their Urban Growth Areas" can be found at: http://www.trpc.org/resources/draftreportgeneral.pdf Morrison says the final report should be on their website by mid-January.

"We're finding new shorelines, and that's good - two new lakes - Bigelow Lake, in Olympia across from Skateland, and Barnes Lake in Tumwater and Chambers Creek in Olympia that connects to the Deschutes River east of Pioneer Park."

"Right now we are a little behind in the process. We had to cancel a meeting with the shoreline planners in three cities due to the recent snow. We're at the point now that we're working on the first draft of the Master Program. This includes the land use regulations for development along the shorelines. We're attempting to use other shoreline master plans as examples, including Whatcom County. There's more work involved though than we…thought. There's also a transition from old terms to new terms, such as "designation" to "zoning."

"Once a draft is available, we'll be able to involve people in its review (with)…public workshops with the Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater Planning Commissions in March or April of 2009. The draft will serve as a template, which we will customize for each of the three cities. For example, Tumwater has a big floodplain, while Olympia has a harbor, and Lacey's shorelines are mostly lake."

"Ultimately, our job is to prepare a shoreline master program packet for all three cities. That includes shoreline environment designations, draft regulations, and all the other scientific documentation that the jurisdictions will need. Our grant requires us to have this complete by June 30, 2009. Then, the cities will take that and work on their own adoption process."

"Rather than contracting all this work out, we're undertaking it and asking our staff to do the work - this way we feel like we have control over the process. We want to do it correctly, with a local flavor. We're the only jurisdiction other than King County that is attempting to update several jurisdictions all at once. That's pretty neat," says Morrison.

In response to a question of how the Washington State Department of Ecology fits in, Morrison said, "We are working with Ecology. Ecology sequenced the adoption of the plans to fit the seven-year comprehensive plan update cycle required by the state Growth Management Act. They are ratcheting up requirements for non-water dependent activities on the shorelines and things associated single family homes such as docks, bulkheads and vegetative buffers."

Phases 4 and 5 are upcoming in late 2009 - early 2010. In these final phases, there will be an analysis of the cumulative impacts of expected shoreline development and the development of restoration and preservation plans including public access. Public hearings, planning commission recommendations, city council approval and state approval will follow.

For additional information contact Steven W. Morrison, Senior Planner, Thurston Regional Planning Council, (360) 956-7575 or www.trpc.org. Shoreline Master Program Updates for the Cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater is available at: http://www.trpc.org/programs/environment/water/smpupdates.htm

Janine Gates is president of SPEECH and can be reached through her website at www.janinegatesphotography.com.

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Updated 2015/01/07 21:14:22