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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

County commission objects to shoreline rules

Officials united against state rewrite of county waterfront plan

A state rewrite of Spokane County’s shoreline regulations is a “prime example” of state agencies “out of control,” Commissioner Mark Richard said Tuesday.

With Washington’s budget on life support, the Department of Ecology should focus on “core issues” instead of meddling in “local business,” Richard said.

The DOE overhaul of the county’s Shoreline Master Plan is the culmination of a process that began in February 2004 and has been “like a never-ending Mobius strip,” said Planning Director John Pederson.

State law requires local governments to devise shoreline regulations that must be approved by the Department of Ecology.

Richard thought Commissioner Todd Mielke was “a little too soft” when he pointed out that a 20-foot limit on docks wouldn’t allow boaters to reach navigable water in Newman and other shallow lakes.

A variance, requiring hearing examiner and DOE approvals, would be needed for a dock longer than 20 feet or larger than 240 square feet.

“Any scientific studies they can point to?” Mielke asked facetiously.

Except for the Long Lake and Upriver Dam reservoirs on the Spokane River, docks would be prohibited on rivers and streams.

Private docks also would be prohibited on lakefront land classified “natural environment,” and only community docks would be allowed on “rural conservancy” lakefronts – and then only with a conditional use permit.

Numerous lakefront zones would be moved into the “natural” category, including Silver Lake and portions of Newman, West Medical and Badger lakes.

Another major change would expand a “channel migration zone” intended to impose broader controls on a meandering portion of Hangman Creek. The controls would be extended to the entire creek as well as Rock, Pine, Deadman and Dragoon creeks.

Commissioner Bonnie Mager said in an interview that she was displeased with the update process. Before she became a commissioner, Mager served on a committee that helped craft the county’s proposed revisions.

“I’m frustrated with the way this has been handled by (DOE shore lands specialist) Doug Pineo, who was repeatedly asked to provide some documentation for the changes that he wanted and didn’t do that,” Mager said. “I lay most of this at his feet.”

Pineo, who retired in June, said Ecology officials “documented extensively.”

“We told them over and over again what the major issues were,” Pineo said. “It was their job to do the science. We paid them (with a grant) to do it. When they failed to do it, we did it for them”

Pineo told commissioners at a July 2007 public hearing that the biggest problem with the county’s proposed update was that it retained a 50-foot buffer against construction.

“The best science would suggest someplace between 100 and 250 feet,” Pineo said.

The DOE rewrite sets variable buffers of 100, 150 and 200 feet, depending on development and shoreline characteristics.

What’s more, state officials want at least a 10-foot setback in addition to the buffers.

“You don’t buy waterfront property to put your home a tenth of a mile away from the water,” Richard objected.

Commissioners are planning a workshop meeting to go over the Ecology Department requirements and document their objections for a possible administrative appeal and court challenge.

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