Skagit County is accepting public comment on a proposed update to the Shoreline Master Program, which sets rules for development in shoreline areas.

Skagit County Planning and Development Services will take written comments on the draft update until 4:30 p.m. April 4.

The Skagit County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. March 15.

The county’s program hasn’t been updated since it was adopted in 1976. The state Department of Ecology is requiring all counties and cities to update local shoreline programs.

The programs ensure compliance with the state’s Shoreline Management Act by setting development rules to protect the state’s shorelines.

Protected areas include marine shorelines; shorelines of rivers, streams and lakes of certain sizes; and some reservoirs, floodplains and wetlands.

“The shorelines of the state are among the most valuable and fragile of our natural resources,” according to Skagit County’s draft document.

Skagit County has 826 miles of protected shoreline: 598 miles along rivers, streams and lakes, and 228 miles along marine and estuarine waters. All but 50 miles of the shoreline are privately owned.

With changes to state guidelines, the county is integrating its existing critical areas ordinance rules with its shoreline management program.

Under the Shoreline Management Act, development is required to be a certain distance, or a setback, from the shoreline. Under the critical areas ordinance, that area is referred to as a buffer, which typically has vegetation to protect the shoreline, filter runoff and provide wildlife habitat.

Skagit County’s proposed Shoreline Master Program update is a complete rewrite that will include new state rules and updated science, according to county documents.

This proposal affects all shoreline areas in unincorporated Skagit County, according to a State Environmental Policy Act checklist filed Jan. 27.

Skagit County determined Feb. 4 that the shoreline plan update does not pose significant threats to the environment, and therefore does not require an environmental impact statement under the State Environmental Policy Act.

The county is also assisting Hamilton and Lyman in developing local shoreline master programs.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199,

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