Skagit County is starting work again on a Shoreline Master Program update left incomplete in 2016.

Senior Planner Betsy Stevenson briefed the county Board of Commissioners Tuesday on the history of the update, its nearly five-year stall, and plans to make it a priority for the new planning commission in 2021.

“I am just so excited and thrilled to get back and pick up where we left off, and get this finished,” Stevenson said.

The county is required to have a Shoreline Master Program under the state’s Shoreline Management Act. The program establishes rules aimed at preserving sensitive natural resources and public access along shorelines.

The county’s Shoreline Master Program applies to 826 miles of marine and freshwater shorelines in unincorporated areas. The program hasn’t been updated since it was created in the 1970s, but an update process began in 2011.

The planning commission released a draft Shoreline Master Program update in February 2016.

Stevenson said the next step would have been review by the county commissioners, but that fell by the wayside because the county was already reviewing other major projects including the Shell Puget Sound Refinery’s proposed rail offloading facility and the Marathon Anacortes Refinery’s proposal to produce xylenes alongside fuel products.

Both refinery projects have since been called off.

Skagit County Planning and Development Services Director Hal Hart said the plan now is to review and update the Shoreline Master Program by June.

“The goal is to bring everybody up to speed in the January, February, March timeframe, and bring a recommendation to you,” Hart told the commissioners Tuesday.

Stevenson said planning department staff will start work sessions with the planning commission this month, and intends to update the county commissioners every other week. They also plan to offer an online open house for the public and hold multiple public comment opportunities between January and April.

“We want to make sure people are heard, included in and part of the process,” Stevenson said.

New county Commissioner Peter Browning said he’s looking forward to learning about the Shoreline Master Program’s ability to protect lakes and other waterways by way of development rules, including setbacks for construction, parameters for docks and armoring, and requirements for vegetation.

Commissioner Lisa Janicki said she’s also looking forward to completing the process, but is cautious about the proposed timeline.

“All of a sudden 10 years have gone by and we’re trying to get it done in six months,” she said.

The 2016 draft and additional information is available online.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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