Updating the Thurston County Shoreline Master Program
by Sam Merrill – Black Hills Audubon is taking a lead role in a number of conservation efforts. One of these is the Thurston County Shoreline Master Program (SMP), which is under intensive review at this time. Audubon Conservation Committee member Anne Van Sweringen, representing Black Hills Audubon and four other local environmental organizations, participates on the Shoreline Master Program stakeholders group and has submitted extensive comments to the Board of County Commissioners on proposed revisions of the SMP.
BHAS is concerned about converting shoreline to other uses. The SMP guidelines (WAC 173-26-186(8)) provide for development standards and use regulations designed to assess impacts and achieve no net loss of shoreline ecological functions. Management of shoreline aquatic systems is critical for the health and safety of the public. Shoreline buffers protect habitat and water quality. BHAS is advocating that standard SMP buffer widths or setbacks not be modified or reduced; that compensatory mitigation be required in the same, or a related, habitat area; and that aquaculture’s use of shorelines be consistent with the regulations of the Shoreline Management Act, the shoreline master program, and Best Available Science. The use of plastic by the aquaculture industry is pervasive, and will increase with industry expansion. Geoduck aquaculture mitigation practices, when based on Best Available Science, are known to reduce risks to birds and other wildlife.
The “redlined” version of the draft SMP Update with comments from the Thurston County Planning Commission and the public is expected to be available January 16. Attendance and/or testimony by BHAS members and others who support environmental objectives is needed at SMP meetings of the Thurston County Planning Commission (typically first and third Wednesdays, with a December 19 Open House) and the Board of County Commissioners. See our electronic newsletter Chirps or our website BlackHills-Audubon.org for timely updates.