Anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, property developers and homeowners all have a stake in the regulations that govern the Spokane River and other local waterways.
Last week, all those groups and more were represented at the inaugural meeting of the Shoreline Advisory Committee, a group designated by the city of Spokane Valley to provide feedback on a process that will eventually culminate in a municipal Shoreline Master Program, replacing the Spokane County version in place since Spokane Valley incorporated in 2003.
At an open house in November 2009, John Patrouch, a senior environmental engineer with URS Corp., a consulting firm hired by Spokane Valley to help coordinate the program, said stakeholders should pay attention to the process.
“Anyone who is interested in the river corridor should be a part of this,” he said.
On Jan. 20, not far from the banks of the Spokane River at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center, representatives of Spokane Valley’s Community Development department welcomed committee members from a diverse range of backgrounds. Companies like Central Pre-Mix, Avista, Kaiser Aluminum and Centennial Properties are represented on the committee as are groups like Spokane Canoe and Kayak, Washington State Parks and Spokane Riverkeepers.
Residents from Greenacres and Shelley Lake are also on the roll call as are delegates from Friends of the Centennial Trail and the Department of Ecology. In all, there are 22 members of the committee – 14 of whom were in attendance at the first meeting.
The Washington state Department of Ecology has asked that counties and cities update their shoreline plans to address issues such as environmental protection, development and recreational access. In October 2009, Spokane Valley officials learned that the process would also involve spending $150,000 from its general fund to cover the revisions.
Since holding its first open house, the city has finished a inventory that includes over 400 acres of shoreline property within municipal limits. Most of the property – 321 acres – is situated along an eight-mile span of the Spokane River. The majority of that acreage is owned by the Washington State Parks Department.
When it involves segmentation of the river in Spokane Valley, 63 percent is designated for use as parks and open space, while 22 percent is categorized as industrial. The remaining 15 percent is considered residential.
The remaining shoreline property is located on the perimeter of three man-made lakes –Shelley Lake and the oversized ponds at the Central Pre-Mix and Flora Road gravel pits.
The advisory committee will spend most of its time on establishing shoreline policies, a procedure that began in earnest last week with attendees attaching Post-Its to posterboards representing a range of categories from recreation to economic development. Suggestions and recommendations were divided into “achieve” and “avoid” columns.
Doug Pineo, a longtime employee of the Department of Ecology who now works as a private consultant, applauded the city for its organized approach, calling attention to the informational binder prepared for each member of the committee.
“I’ve been through a few of these processes and this is one of the best prepared notebooks I’ve seen.”
Bill Abrahamse, one of two anglers at the meeting, indicated he would not be fishing for confrontation as part of the committee.
“I’d like to listen with an opportunity to learn instead of figuring out how I’m going to argue against something,” Abrahamse said.
Committee member Judy Kaufman said it would be vital to see “how we can have the Spokane River become more important to the citizenry.”
While the committee members will be integral in the process, Micki Harnois of the city’s Community Development department said the group would be called upon more to generate ideas than establish detailed policy.
“The goal is not to go word-by-word and write our own document as a group,” Harnois said. “The staff will be there to wordsmith gaps in policy development.”
The advisory group plans to meet every other Thursday through May. The meetings are open to the public. The city hopes to have a new Shoreline Master Program in place by December 2013.