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Moses Lake adopts budget for shoreline planning contract

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | March 12, 2021 1:00 AM

The Moses Lake City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new shoreline master program budget contract, which could make development guidelines clearer for lakefront property owners.

The Shoreline Management Act of 1971 requires all counties and most cities to implement shoreline programs with the overarching goal to “prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.”

Moses Lake fits into the act’s size criteria. Not only must the lake have a program, but that program must be updated every eight years. The program update is due to the state in June 2022, said City Manager Allison Williams.

The biggest goal of the Moses Lake program is to have good lake quality, and what happens on the shoreline influences that, Williams said. Whenever permits are put in place, however, it’s a balancing act of scientific data with private property rights.

The biggest changes to the shoreline master program involve new surveys conducted by Wenatchee-based Four Peaks Environmental Data & Solutions to determine definitive shoreline delineations and ordinary high water marks, said Rachel Granrath, senior planner with consulting service SCJ Alliance, who put forth the new budget contract. Four Peaks will also conduct base mapping, identifying factors, such as soil conditions and wetlands versus dunes.

“We have areas where we have houses built on sand and so we’re trying to keep the shoreline from eroding, and so I think this work will be really critical in giving us that baseline, so our staff will be able to have a handle on moving things forward in a partnership effort,” Williams said.

In the prior program, the Department of Ecology had a blanket approach to shoreline mitigation, Granrath said, where regulations were set across the board in Moses Lake based on their mapping criteria. The city of Moses Lake, in the update program, will section the shorelines into unique zones based on their ecological structure and regulate accordingly.

This will create clearer guidelines for developers and citizens who own property along the lake, Granrath said.

Required by state mandate, a big part of this is education, she said. One of the main drivers for these updates is increased reports of lake violations, such as private landowners putting in docks at the wrong times of the year or planting species to protect the banks without proper regulation.

It’s not malicious, just lack of information, Granrath said.

This education will make these requirements more appropriate to each individual piece of land, much clearer, she said.

“(The updated program will) make Moses Lake a better place, use the natural amenities that we have and protect them and protect private property rights all at the same time,” she said.

The city is eligible for a $22,500 Department of Ecology grant, which would defray the cost of the new program’s services, she said. SCJ Alliance requires $45,800, and Four Peaks requires $52,000. Assuming the city acquires the ecology grant, the total would be $75,300.

While each council member approved, some may have felt obligated to do so.

“I really enjoy these state-mandated programs that only fund portions of it. They’re just lovely,” council member Daryl Jackson said. “I wish those people would come down and work at the city level once in a while. We have no choice.”