Forum explains Shoreline Master Program update

Sequim Gazette

About 50 people attended a public forum on the county’s Shoreline Master Program update Thursday afternoon. The forum, held at John Wayne Marina, was held to get views on how to best manage river floodplains, protect private property, protect environmental resources and ensure public access, county staff said.


Two forums were held at the marina April 14: the first at 1 p.m. and another at 5:30 p.m. At the afternoon forum, Clallam County Planning Director Steve Gray opened by explaining why the county’s Shoreline Master Program is being updated. The program, which regulates land use and development within 200 feet from rivers, lakes, streams and marine shores, was created through the state Shoreline Management Act of 1971. The act applies to bodies of water larger than 20 acres, according to the state Department of Ecology. The county’s program was adopted in 1976 and last revised in 1992. In 2003, the Washington State Legislature set up a timetable for local governments to update their Shoreline Master Program to address current conditions, consider new science and better align it with related laws, according to the Department of Ecology. Gray said many of the rules under the county’s 1976 program don’t make sense anymore. When an audience member expressed concerns that the update would impose more restrictions on property owners, Gray replied, “I can’t say it won’t be more restrictive, but if it is we’d better have good reasons for it.”

Outlining goals, restrictions

The main portion of the forum was a presentation by environmental consultants Jim Kramer and Margaret Clancy.


Kramer said it is important for people to understand the goals of the program update as well as the constraints faced by those developing it.


The goals are to encourage water-dependent and priority uses of shoreline property, promote public access and protect natural resources, he said.


The constraints include the limited resources of the county for implementation of the project update, the limited focus to shorelines and the need to balance community needs with environmental protection and economic development, he said.


Kramer said existing development will not be affected by the update unless significant clearing, expansion or redevelopment is sought.

Analyzing the shoreline

Clancy, the director of Biological Resources and Land Management Group of ESA Adolfson, presented a breakdown of the shoreline.


The county hired the consulting firm to conduct an analysis of the shorelines.


Clancy said 83 percent of the shoreline under the Shoreline Master Program in Clallam County is marine and 62 percent is along lakes and rivers. Most is privately owned, she said.


Clancy showed two slides of residences built near marine shoreline, one near a bluff and one near the beach.


“We have issues here of environmental conditions and health and human safety,” she said of the houses built close to the edge of cliffs. When houses are built too close to the edge of a cliff, erosion eventually pulls the house down into the beach and water below, which harms the environment, she said.


Houses built in flood plains are also at risk of sustaining damage and in return damaging the environment, not to mention hurting the county’s eligibility to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, Clancy said.


Public comment will continue to be sought during the process and a draft plan is expected to be completed in about a year, Kramer said.


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