Wetland buffers defended - Ecology specialist outlines how much perimeter state wants

By Evan Cael
Peninsula Daily News

June 1, 2007

PORT HADLOCK — Representatives from the state Department of Ecology laid out the agency's policy protecting critical wetlands at Wednesday's Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting.

"Buffering is necessary," said RIck Mraz, Ecology wetlands and shoreline specialist.

He spoke to the nine planning commissioners and an audience of 60 at the Washington State University Learning Center in Port Hadlock.

Few have debated that point since a controversy ballooned last June over the increased buffer widths in a proposed critical areas ordinance.

The question that has been ringing repeatedly and loudly ever since remained the same Wednesday night:

What is the necessary buffer width to protect water quality and wildlife habitats?

Ecology's policy is that between 25 feet and 300 feet of buffer is necessary, depending on the type of wetalnd and activity adjacent to it.

Agreeing with that policy are three citizens on an 18-member critical area ordinance committee that was formed last August to recommend revisions.

An opposing opinion is held by the remaining citizens on the critical areas ordinance committee — spearheaded by Kenneth Brooks, a wetlands scientist who is also a committee member.

They believe the buffer widths should fall between 7.5 feet and 180 feet, with a voluntary additional buffer width for wildlife habitats.

But althought only part of Brooks' recommendations involve voluntary buffers, Mraz said, "Voluntary measures do not adequately address all types of development impacts.

"Prescriptive requirements are sometimes necessary."

Of Ecology's recommendations, "We're giving up some of the simplicity and offering flexibility," Mraz said.

Throughout the question and answer period in which only planning commissioners coupld pose inquiries, Mraz repeatedly said that Ecology's recommendations have not incorporated Jefferson County's unique geological and topographical characteristics.

During the public comment period, Jim Hagen, former Planning Commission chairman and critical areas ordinance subcommittee member said, "I'm leery of regulations that have nothing to do with our area."

But some audience members did agree with Mraz.

Jefferson County resident Frank Hoffman said, "I think a lot of what you said is common sense."

Reporter Evan Cael can be reached at 360-385-2335 or evan.cael@peninsuladailynews.com.
ommer contributed to this report.__ Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed


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