Updated shoreline rules outline creek and lakeside construction

December 7, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

City aims to balance ecology and expansion

The latest city shoreline rules should help planners to determine appropriate creek and lakeside areas for construction, plus offer more clarity to landowners along Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish.

The city Planning Policy Commission has OK’d the updated Shoreline Master Program — the guide to construction along Lake Sammamish, and the main stem and East Fork of Issaquah Creek. The measure heads to the City Council for adoption.

“The objectives are to allow redevelopment and expansion,” city Environmental Planner Peter Rosen said. “But, then, there’s also some requirements to improve the existing conditions along the lake.”

The updated shoreline regulations apply to land located within 200 feet of the shorelines, plus associated wetlands.

The decision to send the Shoreline Master Program to the City Council came after more than a dozen meetings and open houses to collect input related to building and redevelopment along the so-called shorelines of the state.

The measure encourages lakeside landowners to remove bulkheads from the shoreline and improve the buffer between residences and the lakeshore.

The rule changes related to docks and moorage buoys — a floating object anchored to the lake bottom to serve as a tie-up location for boats — received numerous comments from landowners.

The shoreline proposal attracted the most attention from residents in the tree-lined neighborhoods along Lake Sammamish.

South Cove resident Don Meyer raised concerns about landowners installing moorage buoys.

In order to obtain a permit for a moorage buoy, applicants must seek approval from the city, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state Department of Ecology, the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposed shoreline rules require moorage buoys to be located to avoid sensitive aquatic habitat, such as the mouths of creeks emptying into Lake Sammamish.

“We didn’t want to be handcuffed, so that somebody can come in and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a permit and we can do what we want because we’ve got this permit,’” Meyer said. “That’s our concern.”

Concerns raised about ‘bureaucratic’ process

Commissioner Joan Probala, a South Cove resident, asked if the city planned to police unauthorized moorage buoys. Under the current arrangement, the city handles enforcement issues on a complaint basis.

“If we got complaints and the administration decided to enforce and act on it, we could require buoys that are not permitted to be removed,” Rosen said.

Though the 106-page document updates city rules related to moorage buoys, participants at the Nov. 18 public hearing to discuss the Shoreline Master Program said uncertainties remained.

“I’m surprised that after all the meetings we’ve had, these buoys can’t be nailed down a little better, but I understand it’s a touchy subject,” commission Chairman Carl Swedberg said.

The commission sent the proposal to the City Council in a split decision. Commissioner Sajal Sahay decided against the measure. Commissioner Raymond Extract abstained from the decision and later called on state and federal agencies to simplify the permitting process.

“I don’t see why it has to be that complicated and why the process has to be so bureaucratic,” he said.

City Council, state agency offer input

The draft Shoreline Master Program has resulted from numerous public meetings and planning sessions spread across several years. The state Department of Ecology awarded $80,000 to the city to complete the Shoreline Master Program update.

The latest update also includes up-to-date environmental and technical information.

Next, City Council members start to discuss the updated Shoreline Master Program in January.

Then, the Council Land & Shore Committee offers input on the proposal. Before the updated rules can take effect, the full council must adopt the measure and the state Department of Ecology needs to sign off on the program. Rosen said the process could be completed in the first quarter of next year.

The city shoreline program has not been updated since officials adopted initial rules 20 years ago. The city has experienced unprecedented growth since 1990 due to construction and annexation.

Issaquah annexed the lakeside Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in 2006, as well as North Issaquah neighborhoods in earlier years.

The lakeshore communities had used King County shoreline rules in the years since annexation. Though Issaquah surrounds Lake Sammamish State Park on all sides, the park is in unincorporated King County, and the county rules apply to the lakeshore inside the park.

Legislators passed the state Shoreline Management Act in 1971, and the public later adopted the measure in a referendum.

The legislation resulted after residents raised concerns about permanent damage to shorelines caused by uncoordinated and unplanned development.

Rosen reached out to residents and homeowners associations in lakeside communities in order to shape the Issaquah update.

Joanna Buehler, Save Lake Sammamish founder and president, credited the city for its robust outreach effort. Save Lake Sammamish is a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental preservation in the lake watershed.

“I want to compliment the city — and particularly Peter Rosen — for the excellent process and the ability to go through this without the acrimony that I’ve seen in other places,” Buehler said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

King County adopts updated shoreline rules

King County leaders emphasized conservation along Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish in shoreline rules adopted last week.

The latest county Shoreline Master Program includes stretches of Issaquah Creek — from the headwaters on Tiger Mountain to the Issaquah city limits — and then the mouth of the creek in Lake Sammamish State Park.

King County has more than 1,500 miles of rivers, 50 miles of marine shoreline and 100 lakes covered under shoreline rules. The plan is the most significant update to shoreline rules since the late 1970s.

“The Shoreline Master Program protects our remaining natural shorelines in order to preserve the most cherished elements of our natural environment — Puget Sound, our waterways and iconic species, like chinook salmon and orca whales,” County Councilman Larry Phillips, Environment and Transportation Committee chairman, said in a statement.

King County Council members OK’d the program Nov. 30. County Executive Dow Constantine signed the legislation the same day.

“This update establishes the foundation for long-term protection and recovery of Central Puget Sound, and is essential to supporting survival of salmon and orca,” he said in a statement.

On the Web

Read the draft Issaquah Shoreline Master Program and offer comments.

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