Three open houses for public comment on an update to the Shoreline Master Program were held between Sept. 8 and Sept. 15 in Montesano, Pacific Beach, and Ocosta.
The Master Program plans for future development activities in the water and 200 feet upland from shorelines along ocean beaches, sections of certain rivers and streams, lakes 20 acres or greater, and wetlands associated with such bodies of water, event materials explained.
Jane Hewitt, principal planner with the Grays Harbor County Planning Division, told the Herald the Montesano meeting was the most heavily attended, with the Pacific Beach meeting seeing a turnout of about a dozen people. The Ocosta meeting had yet to be held when she spoke with the Herald.
"I would say last night most people had specific concerns or questions about either a project that they had planned ... or their own use of the shoreline -- specific questions on their own property," Hewitt said in regard to the Pacific Beach meeting.
"The State of Washington passed the Shoreline Management Plan back in the early 70s," Hewitt continued of the need for an update. "Grays Harbor County adopted its Shoreline Master Program that talked about how we would administer those rules locally in, I think, 1974. The last and only major update to that 1974 plan was done in 1980, so we're living with a pretty old document."
Hewitt further explained that the state's Department of Ecology has required local jurisdictions to update the plan based on the best available science. Most larger jurisdictions in the state have already updated their plans, she continued, but smaller jurisdictions were given a different timeline pending the availability of state funding.
A citizen's committee has been working since Aug. 2015 on putting together a draft based on data gathered from workshops and online surveys.
Hewitt described the approval process for the updated Master Program as a somewhat laborious one requiring approval by several entities. The tentative update has gone to the Department of Ecology once for comment and is therefore close to being a preliminary draft, Hewitt indicated, adding that the citizen's committee will start making final changes based on the feedback received from the public meetings. The Department of Ecology will have own comment period, she added, and the county's Planning Commission is also required to have at least one public hearing, though it may host more. The proposal for the updated plan will then go to the Board of County Commissioners and then back to the Board of Ecology
"Once Ecology looks at it, and they say it meets state law and is acceptable, then it comes back to us for our county commissioners to adopt it by ordinance," Hewitt concluded, though she indicated getting to that stage will take some time.
The proposed update to the Shoreline Master Program, as it now stands, is available to the public through the Timberland Library System or online at ghcsmp.org.