A long-awaited update on how shorelines will be regulated in Okanogan County has been approved by the Department of Ecology. Shorelines in the state’s largest county provide prime habitat for a multitude of species and support many land uses.
Okanogan County’s shoreline master program will improve the use, management and restoration of shorelines along the Chewuch, Methow, Okanogan, Similkameen and Twisp rivers, and lakes Pateros, Osoyoos and Palmer.
Ecology’s approval completes an 11-year process that involved hundreds of people, including property owners, a science advisory panel, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, and state and local government staff.
Early in the process, the county developed a set of environmental designations for different categories of shoreline. A key part tailors vegetation conservation areas and setbacks to respond to specific shoreline conditions.
For example, where impacts to vegetation conservation areas are identified, new developments are required to implement a habitat management and mitigation plan to ensure no net loss of ecological function.
The program specifically protects ecologically intact shorelines. It also includes locally developed policies and regulations to protect all designated critical areas within shoreline jurisdiction.
Washington’s 262 cities and counties with regulated shorelines must periodically update their programs, a requirement of the state’s Shoreline Management Act. Okanogan County’s shoreline program now becomes a part of the state’s overall shoreline master program.