|COUNTY PASSES REGULATIONS FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE
HABITAT - follows the lead of Clallam County for buffers
By Mary Duncan
Shelton-Mason County Journal - 2/28/02
Without discussion at their evening meeting February 26, the Mason
commissioners unanimously approved amendments to land-use regulations to
protect fish and wildlife habitat.
Twice the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board has ruled
county's fish and wildlife regulations are invalid and noncompliant,
on December 1, 2000 and again on March 14, 2001.
The hearings board ruled the setbacks on saltwater shorelines and lakes
larger than 20 acres out of compliance with the state's Growth
Act guidelines, directing the county to establish a range of setbacks
on BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE.
In December, community development department staff presented revisions
written with assistance from other state agencies, including the
Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Office of Community
Development. After reviewing the recommendations, the Mason County
Commission and the Mason County Shorelines Advisory Board submitted a
counterproposal reducing stream buffer widths and waterfront setbacks
those in the draft developed by county staff.
However, the staffs stream buffer widths were approved by the hearings
in its December 2000 findings and order.
After considerable testimony at a series of public hearings held
third alternative, prepared by county staff, was approved by the county
commissioners Tuesday night. It establishes a 75-foot natural vegetative
buffer setback, plus a 15-foot building setback along most marine
and large lakes, and increases the setbacks from 75 feet to 100 feet in
areas designated as conservancy shorelines.
It does not contain any reductions in stream-buffer widths, as
by the citizens' advisory groups.
Bob Fink, planning manager, presented the staff report identifying seven
reasons the county staff "believes the proposal is appropriate to
He said the proposed setback standards "can be effectively
administered" since they are "easily understood by the public
and fair to
A standard setback affords more overall environmental protection of the
resource, Fink continued, and falls within the range of BEST AVAILABLE
"The county contends BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE does not lead to the
that there is only one specific setback distance. In fact, the science
portrays a far less than clear picture and justifies a fairly broad
possible actions," Fink reported.
The proposed 75-foot setback is supported by a recent hearings board
decision in a Clallam County case and the BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE went
that decision, he added. The hearings board approved 50-foot rural
buffers "based in part on the rationale that the rural area was
five-acre and larger parcels," Fink said. "One of the
effects of this is a low level of impervious surface."
He said the community development department tried to work with state
agencies and the Skokomish Tribe regarding smaller buffers in very
"We were not able to reach any agreement. We ran out of time to
kind of shift in approach," he explained. "WE WOULD NEED MORE
TIME TO PUT
TOGETHER A RECORD THAT WOULD OVERWHELM FISH AND WILDLIFE'S DISAVOWAL OF
THE SCIENCE. Maybe Clallam County was lucky." The state department
100-foot shoreline setback.
For feeder bluff areas, described as steep, unstable slopes, the
provide for additional buffer and setback requirements. "This
complements other landslide hazard and critical area provisions that
the issue of stability and erosion at and above the shoreline,"
The proposal also addresses specific concerns expressed by the
Department of Fish and Wildlife in its letter of December 10, 2001, he
Changes to clarify the language in several sections of the text
at the request of WDFW to parts of the ordinance which were not remanded
the growth-management hearings board. "This was done in recognition
is not just the width of buffers but other factors that affect the
preservation of the values and functions of the resource," he
Fink said THE PROPOSED REGULATIONS "SIGNIFICANTLY PROTECT THE
VALUES OF THE RESOURCE WHILE PERMITTING REASONABLE PRIVATE PROPERTY
DEVELOPMENT AND ACKNOWLEDGING PROPERTY RIGHTS."
Fink said the county weighed both larger and smaller buffers and noted
record of BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE indicates that many other factors
the buffer width are "very important in resource protection."
The county has tried to balance what Fink called "the four most
goals" of the Growth Management Act: environment, property rights,
participation and coordination and permitting.
"The county considered the uncertainty in the science that does not
any golden number as an answer, the strength of public opinion against
over-regulation of property rights, the comments of the resource
and the need to protect the functions and values of the resources,"
said in recommending approval to the commissioners.