Updated at 1:45 p.m. May 2 with city council comments.
The Washington Department of Ecology announced Monday that it has approved the Edmonds Shoreline Master Program comprehensive update that was submitted by the City of Edmonds following a long debate by the Edmonds City Council over Edmonds Marsh buffers.
“Finally!” stated City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis upon hearing the news. “It has been a very long and detailed process that involved the collaborative efforts of many individuals.” Buckshnis, who had been a strong advocate of a wider marsh buffer, specifically offered thanks to city staff involved in the project — including Development Services Director Shane Hope, Senior Planner Kernen Lien and City Attorney Jeff Taraday — as well as the Department of Ecology “and of course our citizens scientists.”
The Shoreline Master Program guides construction and development on local shorelines. Edmonds has six miles of shoreline along Puget Sound, Lake Ballinger and the Edmonds Marsh. Washington’s Shoreline Management Act requires local governments to adopt these plans, which establish environmental designations for different types of shorelines, including buffers and setbacks that protect ecological conditions.
The final two years of the update process, which started in 2006, focused on protections for the Edmonds Marsh, between the waterfront and downtown. Ecology’s approval of the Edmonds Shoreline Master Program update includes Option M, adopted earlier this year by the city council. It establishes two approaches for protecting the marsh:
Under Option M, no structures may be built within a 110-foot buffer around the marsh and a 15-foot setback from the buffer. A developer may propose an alternate buffer width based on site-specific ecological studies, subject to city council review and approval.
“I am very pleased the Washington Department of Ecology accepted our City Council’s proposal to protect our marsh and wildlife,” added Councilmember Mike Nelson, who along with Buckshnis had worked with City Attorney Taraday to develop Option M, along with a proposal for a city council-funded baseline study of the marsh.
“I really appreciate our council came together after long deliberations and voting unanimously for these changes to the Shoreline Master Program,” Nelson said. “And I am grateful for the valuable input we received from our residents, business owners and city staff.”
According Monday’s announcement, Ecology concluded that option M provides adequate flexibility to recognize the current urbanized condition of the Edmonds Marsh buffer, and is consistent with the shoreline act’s intent of the protecting ecological functions and offsetting environmental impacts of future development.
“We received a great deal of input throughout this process,” said Joe Burcar, Ecology’s regional shorelines program supervisor. “We appreciated the keen interest in the marsh shown by citizens, property owners and the city. Option M reflects the community’s strong interest in protecting the marsh while also satisfying state standards.”
In addition to addressing the Edmonds Marsh, the Edmonds Shoreline Master Program increases protection of near-shore habitats, maintains public shore access in city parks, and guides development of future public access. It also incorporates existing regulations for critical areas, including mitigation requirements and wetlands and habitat protection.
You can read more at the Ecology website link here.