Northwest NEWS

December 10, 2001


Farmers gain chance to reduce regulatory controls

Hats off to the Skagit County farmers who paid for scientific studies to demonstrate that riparian fish buffer requirements are unnecessarily wide and confiscatory, thereby gaining a fighting chance to reduce regulatory controls. Unfortunately for King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties, the horrendous Tri-County Model ESA Response Program is well on its way to implementation by the various jurisdictions in those counties.
   King County Executive Ron Sims' agencies have prepared a so-called Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Ordinance for adoption by the now Democrat-controlled King County Council, who probably will shove it right through. The ordinance incorporates new lockup clearing and grading restrictions and new, tougher sensitive areas requirements, as well as the Tri-County elements. (If the early Tim Eyman initiatives were thrown out for illegally containing too many issues, so should this proposed county ordinance be thrown out.)
   For urban, rural and natural resource areas, by themselves the Tri-County requirements dispel the need for new shorelines management guidelines. They control or prohibit bank stabilization, docks, piers, and small bridges. They call for 200' "management zones" along most waters, including ponds with a surface area of half-acre or more.
   Even part-time streams that eventually feed into controlled waters must have 65-115' of management zones. Up to 150 feet of the management zones must be recorded against the land's title in perpetuity as native growth or conservation easements.
   In the rural residential zones where hobby farmers pasture livestock and grow vegetables, flowers and fruit trees, "each jurisdiction shall require sixty-five percent (65 percent) vegetation retention in the development and redevelopment of rural residential zoned parcels. . . In addition, jurisdictions shall require such developments and redevelopments to minimize total 'effective, impervious surface' to less than 10 percent (10%) of the development site. . ." (That includes gravel roads and parking areas, as well as structures and paving.)
   The definition for development/redevelopment includes "any construction, development, earth movement, clearing, or other site disturbance of the land, except as listed under exemptions."
   In a footnote agriculture is listed as an exemption, but ag. is often narrowly interpreted and limited to existing, ongoing, and IRS-registered commercial agriculture.
   Management zone restoration requirements for new development and for redevelopments can include a professional evaluation (study) of "the functions that the site could have provided absent pre-European settlement development . . . For example absent modern development, did the site have or could it reasonably have provided side channels, oxbows, or other off-channel features?" (An applicant would be lucky to get away with merely restoring the original native tree cover.)
   Interested landowners should call King County Executive Ron Sims' office for copies of "Chapter Two, Land Management Development Regulations, The Regulations of Near-shore and Aquatic Development," which was distributed recently at one of his agencies' workshops.
   Also ask to be put on the list to receive the Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Ordinance when it's ready in early 2002. His phone number is (206) 296-4040.
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville