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Port Orchard shoreline program approved by state Department of Ecology

BELLEVUE — The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has approved Port Orchard’s updated shoreline master program.

Port Orchard’s shoreline program will result in significant improvements in the protection, use, development, restoration and water-quality protection along 11 miles of Sinclair Inlet, Black Jack Creek, Ross Creek Estuary, Big Lake and Square Lake.

The updated master program combines local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and related permitting requirements.

“Port Orchard’s shoreline master program helps protect the economic and environmental health of Puget Sound.  Shorelines play a central part in Washington’s quality of life.  The city’s program will help protect treasured shoreline resources today and for future generations,” said Erik Stockdale, acting regional supervisor for Ecology’s shorelines and environmental assessment program.

Cities and counties statewide are in the process of, or soon will be, updating or developing their master programs under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act.

Shoreline master programs are the cornerstone of the act. The law requires cities and counties with regulated shorelines 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.

The city’s process brought diverse local interests together to work collaboratively. These included waterfront property owners, scientists, non-profit organizations, tribes, waterfront industries, and state and local resources agency staff. The process began with a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions, completed with consultant support.

Port Orchard’s shoreline master program:

• Integrates shoreline regulations with the city’s growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.

• Establishes protective buffers of 25 to 200 feet based on individual property circumstance and uses.

• Limits the length of new residential docks and piers to the minimum necessary.

• Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring.

• Includes a restoration plan showing where and how voluntary improvements in water and on-shore areas can enhance the local shoreline environment.

• Helps support the broader initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.

Under state law, the local shoreline plan must be approved by Ecology before taking effect. It then becomes part of the state shoreline master program.  The department will help defend Port Orchard’s shoreline program against legal challenges.

Washington’s 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.

 

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