The Spokane Valley City Council and the city’s Planning Commission members spent most of the evening Tuesday listening to a lengthy presentation about progress being made on the city’s Shoreline Master Program and asking a few questions about what items will be addressed in the plan.
The city’s current Shoreline Master Program was copied from the Spokane County plan in effect when the city incorporated in 2003. That plan was drafted by the county in 1974, said Doug Pineo of the Department of Ecology.
Local governments were required to implement a shoreline plan after the Shoreline Management Act was passed in 1971. The idea is that people have the right to physical and visual access to shorelines and steps must be taken to preserve them, Pineo said. “The law itself is 20 pages of fine print,” he said. “Shoreline resources are not easily replaced. Most of them are irreplaceable.”
In Spokane Valley the bodies of water that must be included are the Spokane River, Shelley Lake and the gravel pits on Park and Sullivan Roads. Even though the lake and the gravel pits are on private property, they must be included in the plan because they are larger than 20 acres. The shoreline protected reaches inland 200 feet from the ordinary high water mark. The city is responsible for 316 acres of shoreline along the river.
Migrating birds often use the gravel pits and lake, said John Patrouche of URS Corp., which is serving as a consultant on the shoreline update. “All of these are important regionally for the habitat,” he said.
A good portion of the shoreline on the river is in good shape because the Centennial Trail and a strip of land that is part of Riverside State Park have kept development away from the banks, he said. “A lot of the immediate riparian area has been well protected,” said Patrouche.
There are some areas that need more native vegetation to stabilize soils and provide wildlife habitat, said Noah Herlocker of URS. The plan also needs to consider possible future uses for the gravel pits. The Park Road pit is nearly to the end of its commercial use, but it is surrounded on all sides by heavy industry. “Public access is a question mark,” Herlocker said. “It has a very steep slope, so safety is an issue.”
The city has had two open houses to allow citizens a chance to comment on the shoreline plan update and more are planned. All aspects of shoreline use, including access and recreation, will be addressed in the plan. The process under way now is to conduct and inventory and analysis. The next steps will be to develop shoreline environment designations, look at cumulative impacts and develop a restoration plan.
After a draft plan is released to the public, the Planning Commission will review it and hold public hearings, then pass it to the City Council with a recommendation. The council will also host public hearings before the plan is finalized and sent to the Department of Ecology for approval. The process is expected to by lengthy, but the new plan is not required to be in place until December 2013.