The Washington Department of Ecology has approved Sequim’s updated shoreline master program.
An agency spokesman said the shoreline program will result in “significant improvements in the protection, use, development and restoration about one mile of shorelines and the water quality of Sequim Bay, Washington Harbor and Pitship Marsh.”
The shoreline area consists of about 145 acres and 44 parcels. Of these, close to 27 percent are vacant parcels.
The state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act requires cities and counties with regulated shorelines to develop and to 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 latest plan revises a number of designations for areas along the shore, bumping the previous four to five, including Urban, Urban Conservancy, Natural, Research District and Shoreline Residential.
The research district designation includes some of the land owned by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, though a portion of it has been designated “natural.”
The area around the John Wayne Marina is largely urban, which allows for “more intense uses,” said Jack Dodge, senior planner for the City of Sequim.
The plan calls for a 75-foot buffer, with an additional 10-foot setback for structures, along the shoreline. The exception is the “natural” designation, which has a 100-foot buffer.
Dodge said the process, which has been ongoing for some years, went smoothly, with the city receiving a good deal of support for the plan. He said that was due in large measure to the city’s efforts to communicate with the community. “The city has worked closely on this with stakeholders,” he said. “They were kept up to speed.”
Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross, who is now in private practice, wrote most of the draft plan while working for the city. She agreed with Dodge, saying she received “a lot of support from the city manager and staff during the course of the project. I also got a lot of input from several local Realtors as well as citizens to help craft the document.”
She praised the city for putting up the large “public notice” signs to let the people in the area know about the plan.
“I think that as a whole the document is fair and easy to understand. There will always be opportunities to dispute the meaning and intent of words, and no document is perfect, but I think it will be a functional document for some time to come.”
A joint effort
The city’s process brought a number of local interests to the table to work collaboratively. The shoreline master program process began with an inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. It was completed with help on restoration planning from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and also from the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
The new shoreline master program:
• Provides shoreline regulations that are integrated with the Sequim growth management planning and zoning, floodplain management and critical areas ordinances as part of a unified development code.
• Limits the length of new residential docks and piers to the minimum necessary, up to 300 feet.
• Encourages soft-bank erosion control methods and limits construction of new shoreline armoring such as bulkheads.
• Includes a restoration plan showing where and how voluntary improvements in water and upland areas can enhance the local shoreline environment.
• Helps support the broader initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.
“Sequim’s shoreline master program helps protect the economic and environmental health of our waters including the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound,” said Paula Ehlers, Ecology shoreline manager for southwest Washington. “Shoreline areas like Sequim Bay and Washington Harbor really make our state a great place to live. By working together, we are protecting our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as our children and future generations.”
About 150 cities and counties statewide are in the process of updating or crafting their master programs.