State Upholds San Juan County’s Shoreline Master Program

Submitted by San Juan County

San Juan County adopted a new Shoreline Master Program in November 2017. Friends of the San Juans appealed the SMP to the Growth Management Hearings Board alleging seven issues Friends claimed did not meet the requirements of state law. Friends asked the board to invalidate the SMP.

The board held a hearing in Friday Harbor on May 4. San Juan County was represented by Deputy Prosecutor Amy Vira, Department of Ecology was represented by Assistant Attorney General Emily Nelson and Friends of the San Juans was represented by its former staff attorney Kyle Loring.

The board issued its decision on June 13, 2018, declining to declare the SMP invalid and finding in favor of the county on four of the seven issues.

Three minor issues were sent back to the county for correction. These include a requirement that mitigation measures occur in the same watershed as the project requiring the mitigation, a requirement that property owners demonstrate “conclusive evidence” that a primary structure is in danger before shoreline stabilization measures are approved and a requirement that the county formalize a process for tracking and evaluating cumulative impacts resulting from project actions.

“Council and staff did a great job of balancing the many requirements of the state Shoreline Management Act and the substantial amount of public input received to craft regulations that fit San Juan County best,” said San Juan County Manager Mike Thomas.

“Overall, we are pleased with the decision as it upholds the bigger issues of shoreline environmental designations and the process used including the science and the county’s inventory and characterization report,” said San Juan County Council Chair Bill Watson. The council will review the decision and formulate a plan for addressing the three issues identified by the Board in the coming weeks.

Either party may appeal the board’s decision within 30 days.