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Update on Jefferson County SMP

Received this from Michelle McConnell of the County Department of Communicty Development. You might be on her mailing list, but if not and interested, here’s the news. Essentially, still in limbo.

County and Ecology staff last met with the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) in late-February and proposed an idea brought forth by Ecology to get the new SMP adopted and work out the in-water finfish aquaculture details later.  The suggestion under consideration is to:

1. Adopt w/ CUP– Adopt the new SMP with an allowance for in-water finfish aquaculture with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).  This would require new applications to meet specific criteria/standards and the permit process would include public notice and a public hearing in front of the Hearing Examiner who would make the final permit decision; and

2. Moratorium – Enact a moratorium to prohibit new applications for in-water finfish aquaculture for up to 18 months to allow further evaluation; and

3. Siting Analysis – Conduct a GIS mapping exercise to evaluate how the existing guidance about where to locate in-water finfish aquaculture operations applies ‘on the ground’ in Jefferson County.  This analysis could reveal there are specific areas where in-water finfish aquaculture would be feasible from the ecological protection and use conflict perspectives, or that there are indeed no locations where such use is feasible; and

4. SMP Amendment – The outcome of the siting analysis would likely lead to  the County making a limited amendment to the new SMP, either to specify where in-water finfish aquaculture can be proposed/sited or to prohibit the use completely from Jefferson County waters.  The amendment process would include public notice, public hearings and require final approval by Ecology.

Staff believes that moving forward with the suggested approach (Adopt/Moratorium/Analysis/Amend) would have several benefits, including;

· Get the new SMP in effect after a long process.  The finfish issue is currently holding up the whole Program.  There are projects pending application that are waiting for the new shoreline provisions to be available.

· Simplify answers to public questions.  The Coaching Services now offered through the Watershed Stewardship Resource Center often requires staff to interpret two different versions of the shoreline regulations – those currently in effect, and those anticipated to be in effect upon final adoption.

· The County’s participation in a partnership project with Clallam County to better understand how to monitor and achieve the ‘no net loss of shoreline ecological functions’ requirement is being delayed as long as the new SMP is not in effect.  This project  is anticipated to be a significant revenue source.

· A project proposed by the Port Townsend Paper Corporation is stalled due to the Mill Pond location currently being in shoreline jurisdiction but that will not be included in shoreline jurisdiction upon final adoption of the new SMP.

· Ecology has indicated availability of some fiscal support to conduct the siting analysis (approx. $10 – 25K) that would provide a dedicated funding source for the work anticipated to be completed by staff and consultants.

· Once Jefferson County finds a solution to the challenge of how to regulate in-water finfish aquaculture, Ecology can provide guidance to many other jurisdictions in the Puget Sound region (and the State) that are also updating their SMPs.

At the BoCC’s direction, staff is currently working to prepare three items to assist the Board’s consideration of the suggested approach:

A. Draft CUP criteria that would be included in the new SMP;

B. Scope of work for the siting analysis; and

C. Work plan and timeline for the moratorium.

Staff will bring these three items to the BoCC as soon as they’re ready and look for further direction from the Board on how they wish to proceed.  Staff is also working with local in-water finfish aquaculture net pen operators/suppliers to arrange for a few site visits for the Commissioners to become more familiar with how these facilities look and function.

There is currently no estimate as to when the Board may take action or when the new SMP will be in effect.  This email list will be kept up to date when more information is available.

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