Thurston County in Early Stages of Revising Comprehensive Plan, Mineral Lands Policy

Thurston County in Early Stages of Revising Comprehensive Plan, Mineral Lands Policy

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(by Sue Danver) –

The State of Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990 requires all counties to revise their Comprehensive Plans every 7 or 8 years. Thurston County is in the early-to-mid phase of this update. The process is long and complicated, with many opportunities to comment. In late March, the County held two open houses at which the public could learn about the Comprehensive Plan Update and provide their visions for transportation, housing, natural resource protection, agriculture, and other planning considerations.

In early March, the Thurston County Planning Commission (PC), an eight-member panel of volunteers, had its first vote after a nearly year-long study of mineral land policy. As required by state law, Thurston County mapped its geologic resources: aggregate (sand and gravel) and quarry rock. The PC was charged to determine which of these identified resource lands should be officially designated Mineral Lands, potentially open to future mining. After a citizen survey of potential lands, the county planning staff developed three maps, each with a different filter of what type of lands should be excluded from designation. Map 1, the least restrictive map, designated a total of 141,331 acres. Map 2 had 107.447 acres. Map 3 had 135,765 acres with a caveat that many of these acres were sensitive lands and probably would not meet permit requirements. The preference of BHAS was Map 2, with Map 3 acceptable.

Nevertheless, on March 21 the PC chose Map 1. It also co-designated Long-Term Agriculture Lands with Mineral Lands, against the South Sound Farmland Trust recommendation and most citizen testimony. The chosen option also fails to automatically prevent mining in already identified FEMA flood plains, Marine Shoreline Landslide Hazard Areas, critical habitat, high quality wetlands and more. If this option prevails, county citizens will have to be more vigilant and most likely spend much time and money to ensure that mining permit proposals are correct and thoroughly reviewed.

We are disappointed that the majority of the PC did not heed citizens’ testimony. Next, the staff will be working on the comprehensive plan’s mineral lands vision statement and mineral code; there will continue to be much pressure on the PC to weaken existing environmental code. BHAS will keep you abreast of this next stage and may ask for your involvement. Eventually, the County Commissioners will be voting on the entire Comprehensive Plan as the modified chapters come together. More detail of the process for Thurston County may be found at their website: Comprehensive Plan (by Sue Danver)