WENATCHEE — The Chelan County Commission has taken a step toward finalizing its Shoreline Master Program.

The commission voted unanimously Monday to send a letter with comments on revisions made by the state Department of Ecology to the county’s draft Shoreline Master Program. Department of Ecology staff will receive the letter and 14 days later the agency will approve the shoreline plan, Commissioner Kevin Overbay said.

A shoreline plan sets the government guidelines for building near or along shorelines, according to the state Department of Ecology website. Cities and counties in the state are required to make shoreline plans that protect natural resources and public access.

Some members of the public are concerned about the plan because it can restrict construction in shoreline areas.

The commission held off on sending the letter last week after hearing from members of the public that the Department of Ecology did not notify the parties of record of the plan changes, Overbay said. Parties of record are people who requested to be notified about updates to a specific project or will be directly impacted. 

Community Development Director Dave Kuhl said he looked into the matter and was told the agency notified the parties of record.

Overbay emphasized the need to move forward on finalizing the shoreline plan because of the continued delay. The county has been working on the program for almost 10 years and has conducted 17 public meetings to construct it.

Overbay also said he was also concerned if the county continued to delay the Department of Ecology could create issue its own Shoreline Master Program based on state law.

“The state has allowed us 10 years to get to this point and we’re on borrowed time,” he said. “And I think our time, our clock, has basically run out.”

During Monday’s meeting, Anne Hessburg, an environmental planner with Grette Associates, said she was on the parties-of-record email list and doesn’t remember receiving an email from the agency. Grette Associates is an environmental consulting company.

“My guess is if I’m missed, some other people might be missed as well, because prior to this new communication with Community Development, I was receiving all those emails from the listserv,” Hessburg said.

She also said the county should be careful with the shoreline plan that it approves and make sure to get it right the first time. The Department of Ecology will not agree to make regulations more lenient in the future, she said. 

Overbay said the county will need to redo the process in two years and it can make any needed changes at that time.

Environment, county and health reporter

Tony Buhr has been a professional reporter for almost seven years. He worked for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin as a cops and courts reporter. The Ellensburg Daily Records as a cops and courts, breaking news, agriculture and water reporter.