Shoreline master plan now up for debate

Sequim Gazette

Clallam County’s draft of its revised Shoreline Master Program is now up for scrutiny, with county officials collecting the public’s comments on the proposal through the end of April. The plan regulates land use and development along the Juan de Fuca Strait and the shores of the county’s freshwater lakes and major streams.


By law, the county has to update the current SMP by 2014.


Ron Gilles, a local Realtor, says those who plan to purchase shoreline land, or who own land now and hope to build on it, should read the proposal carefully.


Gilles said perhaps the most important items in the SMP are the rules regarding the maintenance of the various shorelines.


Steve Gray, planning manager for the Clallam County Department of Community Development, said the rules will require that development results in “no net loss of ecological function.” He said that may mean, for example, no habitat destruction, or it also may mean no impediments can be put into place to prevent erosion. The calving bluffs west of the Dungeness Spit, he pointed out, are feeders for the spit, a function the plan will ensure continues.


Gray also was quick to emphasize that the rule says no “net loss,” as opposed to no changes, and provides land owners with a good deal of flexibility in meeting the requirements.


Gilles said that may include required mitigation, though what that may entail hasn’t been fully worked out.

Burt Reid, who owns 10 acres along the strait on North Bagley Creek Road, said, “I have major concerns” about the proposal.


He said that depending on what version he’s seen, the required setbacks are as much as 175 feet. “It basically makes that entire piece worthless,” he said.


Reid added, “I guess the biggest thing is that we don’t really know what it’s doing yet. It all seems to be done behind closed doors.”

Shedding some light

Gray recently released extensive comments on the draft with the hope of “getting the word out.”


In his comments, Gray said the biggest change between the existing and proposed SMPs is new wording that in some areas would move “new uses and developments” further inland from waterfront bluffs.


The preliminary draft SMP also requires that new riverfront developments locate at least 50 feet from the outer edge of the channel migration zone — the area within which the stream will naturally migrate “back and forth,” according to Gray — “if maps indicate the potential for channel migration.”


These buffers can be reduced but that would require a “thorough evaluation by a qualified professional” that indicates there is minimal threat of channel migration.


Gray said the county was aware of the implications for development that the new rule imposes, but said “in all but a few cases ... existing lots are large enough that homes can be constructed outside of the buffer.”


Say your piece

The county will hold public forums in mid-April to gather input and will begin drafting revisions in May.  The County Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners will formally review the revised SMP later this spring and summer. Comments from the public will be gathered throughout the process.


While the county is responsible for completing the comprehensive update, the Washington Department of Ecology must provide final approval.


The Preliminary Draft SMP document is available at local libraries. The proposal, and a great deal of additional information, also can be accessed at the county’s website, Written comments can be submitted to the Clallam County Department of Community Development, 223 E. Fourth St., Suite 5, Port Angeles, WA 98362; by e-mail to; or enter comments in the public comment box found at


The cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks also are updating their SMPs.


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