Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) has sent letters this week to the state departments of Ecology and Commerce asking its directors to refrain from creating new shoreline policies and guidance.
The issue centers around which jurisdiction takes precedence in setting shoreline rules and buffers — the state’s Shorelines Management Act or the Growth Management Act (GMA).
GMA governs “critical areas,” which the Department of Ecology contends should cover some shorelines with generally more restrictive rules.
Both laws have been in conflict and the subject of litigation involving Kitsap County’s shoreline buffer zones.
However, Angel says the state Supreme Court ruled last year that the Shoreline Management Act is the governing jurisdiction for the state’s shorelines.
Now, she says, without legislative authority, the Department of Ecology has issued “interim guidance” and is developing new policies on how governments can deal with critical areas within the shorelines.
“The Department of Ecology wants to come in and add more guidelines that would result in conflicting policies beyond those outlined in the state’s Shorelines Management Act,” she said. “This will really muddy up things and result in more litigation involving state agencies, local governments and shoreline property owners. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“The state Supreme Court made it clear last year that the Shoreline Management Act takes precedence,” said Angel, ,” said Angel, who serves as ranking Republican on the House Local Government and Housing Committee. “The Department of Ecology needs to adhere to that ruling, which is the prevailing law.”
Angel says DOE’s new policies would have the critical area ordinances (CAOs) apply as the prevailing law, which in Kitsap County seeks to increase shoreline buffers by as much as 150 feet or more.
“Ecology keeps giving direction that I believe is in question,” she explained. “We’re asking it to cease and desist, as well as the Department of Commerce which oversees the Growth Management Act and implementation of the CAOs,” said Angel.
“Rather than wasting time, resources and taxpayers’ dollars,” she said, “the Department of Ecology needs to accept the high court’s ruling that the state’s shorelines, including those in Pierce and Kitsap counties, are governed by the Shoreline Management Act.”
In addition to letters to the departments of Ecology and Commerce, Angel has sent a letter to state Attorney General Rob McKenna asking whether the agencies are “acting in defiance of legal authority” by issuing the new guidance and policies.
All three letters are also co-signed by Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who serves as House Republican deputy leader. Copies were also supplied to the governor’s office.
Angel says whatever rules are applied will have widespread effects to those who live, work and own property along Pierce and Kitsap counties’ hundreds of miles of shorelines.
“When we get into the question of shoreline buffers,” she said, “it affects home ownership, personal and commercial property, and development rights. It puts property owners in huge limbo.
“These laws govern whether they can expand an existing home or build a new home,” Angel said. “The Shorelines Management Act recognizes the importance of allowing people to work and play along Washington’s shorelines. It gives the ability under certain criteria for restaurants, businesses, marinas and docks to be built along with other limited development within those areas. CAOs, on the other hand, are generally more restrictive and may prohibit such activities.
Angel concluded, “Ecology is going too far by giving opinions, which I don’t believe it has the legal right to do. I think we need to let the shoreline master program control the shorelines, without new guidance from the departments, until the Legislature provides further direction on the issue.”