Clallam County approves draft Shoreline Master Program

PORT ANGELES — In what was described as a “milestone” for Clallam County, the three commissioners approved Tuesday a final draft Shoreline Master Program for submittal to the state Department of Ecology.

The 266-page document, which is available at, is a comprehensive land-use plan for shoreline areas that aims to promote public access while achieving a “no net less” of ecological functions.

New regulations like buffers and setbacks from bluffs and wetlands will affect only future development and re-development, not existing structures, Planning Manager Steve Gray said.

The state Shoreline Management Act of 1971 requires all cities and counties to update their Shoreline Master Programs, or SMPs. Clallam County’s existing 1976 SMP was last amended in 1992.

The current update begin in 2010 and continued in spurt and stops for the next eight years, according to a seven-page resolution approving the SMP update for state review.

“I think it’s good work,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said before the unanimous vote Tuesday.

“Good things take time,” Commissioner Bill Peach added.

After the vote, Mary Ellen Winborn, Department of Community Development director, exchanged a fist bump with Gray, who shepherded the SMP update through dozens of Planning Commission meetings, public forums, public hearings and commissioner work sessions.

“It has definitely been years and obviously longer than most things we do because of the complexity of replacing this document,” Gray told commissioners in a Monday work session.

“There was some stops and gos during that process based on resources and other obligations, but certainly since 2017, in particular, we’ve been working pretty hard on this both at the Planning Commission and at your level pretty nonstop.”

The Monday work session was the 16th that the board held on the SMP update since a Dec. 12, 2017 public hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommended draft SMP.

The December hearing was preceded by four regional public forums and three board work sessions, Gray said in a memo to the board.

The final draft of the county’s SMP update contains revisions that were based on commissioner review and public comments made to the board.

Those revisions include:

• An added goal to support increased public awareness about sea level rise and climate change.

• Prohibited in-water, non-native finfish aquaculture, including net pens.

• Required monitoring and added application information for new finfish and commercial geoduck aquaculture.

• New standards and procedures for using maps that show the general extent of potential channel migration zones along rivers.

• An allowance for consideration of new parking areas for public waterfront access in the Clallam Bay-Sekiu area.

• New policies and regulations to support the removal of invasive and noxious weeds within the shoreline jurisdiction.

“This is a milestone,” Board Chairman Mark Ozias said of the vote to send the final draft to Ecology.

Once Ecology receives a completed SMP and supporting materials from the county, the agency will hold a minimum 30-day public comment period on Clallam County’s final draft shoreline plan.

Ecology has the option of holding a public hearing on the Clallam County SMP, which would likely extend the timeline for approval, Gray told commissioners Monday.

“On average, I think they say it’s six months,” Gray said of Ecology’s approval process.

“It’s probably dependent on their workload. They have other shoreline master programs that are going through similar processes.”

Gray said he would brief the board when he had a better handle on Ecology’s timeline.

After receiving final approval from Ecology, Clallam County commissioners will take a final step to adopt an ordinance to update and replace the existing SMP.

Under the Shoreline Management Act, local SMPs apply to all marine waters, rivers and streams with a mean annual flow of at least 20 cubic feet per second and lakes and reservoirs of 20 acre or more.

SMPs affect lands within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark, wetlands and deltas.

The new Clallam County SMP addresses the state requirement to avoid a net loss of ecological functions when new development occurs, updates shoreline environmental designation maps and tailors buffers and setbacks from the top of marine bluffs based on the type of bluff rather than a one size fits all approach, Gray said in a email.

“It’s amazing how much goes into any one individual step that we contemplate in a work session,” Ozias said of the SMP update.

“I think any member of the public who takes the time to read through this resolution, and thinks about everything that’s memorialized and all of the years of effort that have gone into creating this document, it helps us understand that this work is complicated, particularly when we’re forced to try and achieve compromises in a planning document like this, and why public process takes a long time.”


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected]

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