The Washington Department of Ecology has approved Spokane County’s revised shoreline master program to guide future development and preservation for about 440 miles of river and lake shoreline after years of work and revisions.
Spokane County’s new shoreline program will significantly improve the protection, use, development and restoration of shorelines. It encompasses areas with all but one of the forested Coulee lakes created by historical flooding. Such lakes are only found in Washington. It also includes shorelines of:
- Spokane River
- Little Spokane River
- Latah (Hangman) Creek
- More than 40 lakes including Newman Lake and Liberty Lake
The program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.
Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said, “Our shorelines help make Washington a great place to live. I want to extend my appreciation and gratitude to Spokane County’s leaders – especially Commissioner Todd Mielke – and planning staff for working to modernize their shoreline master program.”
Spokane County joins more than 60 city and county governments that have successfully crafted new or updated their existing local shoreline programs under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act.
Shoreline programs are the cornerstone of the act. Local governments with regulated shorelines are required to develop and periodically update their locally tailored programs to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses, and protect the public’s right to public lands and waters.
“Spokane County supports Ecology’s approval of the new Spokane County Shoreline Master Program,” said Spokane County Planning Director John Pederson. “It represents a collaborative effort between Spokane County and the Department of Ecology in developing a master program that is consistent with the Shoreline Management Act and provides for protection, enhancement, and development of our shoreline resources in a manner that recognizes property rights and the public interest.”
The state approval culminates nine years of heated debate and potential rulemaking over a shoreline program that complies with the Shoreline Management Act and meets local needs and conditions.
Ecology and Spokane County worked collaboratively since the “conditional approval” of the county’s shoreline program in 2012 to complete a shoreline master program that meets legal requirements and was locally adopted.
Spokane County’s shoreline program:
- Protects private property rights.
- Creates more efficient development review by merging the county’s critical areas ordinances into the shoreline program.
- Safeguards fish and wildlife by protecting critical freshwater habitats.
- Increases public safety and reduces property damage from floods while keeping new development out of harm’s way.
- Protects the public’s existing access to public shorelines and provides more opportunities for swimming, fishing and enjoying public waters and shores.
- Ensures everyone’s right to use lakes and rivers by limiting the size of docks and other overwater structures.
- Promotes more effective and natural options for stabilizing eroding shorelines.
- Plans for future, voluntary shoreline restoration that improves water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and other shoreline values.
About 200 cities and counties statewide are in the process or soon will be updating or crafting their shoreline programs. All Washington cities and counties with regulated shorelines must update their programs by December 2014. They are following regulations adopted by Ecology in 2003. The regulations resulted from a negotiated settlement among 58 different parties including business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology and the courts.
The city of Spokane Valley held a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss the public-access plan for its shoreline plan update.