County drafts plan to protect streams

Hood River County has drafted a plan to protect riparian areas along fish-bearing waterways with minimal regulation of private property.

That task has been made easier since many of the affected parcels are already subject to protection guidelines because they lie within a designated floodplain.

Planning Director Mike Benedict is seeking to meet Goal 5 of the state land-use rules by writing an ordinance that will govern ground-disturbing activities along 160 miles of rivers and streams.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to preserve the streamside vegetation that is essential for water quality,” said Planner Anne Debbaut in her briefing to the Planning Commission last week.

At the Aug. 13 work session, the appointed body suggested several slight modifications to the text of the “Safe Harbor” ordinance, which will be presented for public review in October. That formal hearing follows two open houses that were held this year to update citizens on the mapping process.

The county will not regulate lands within its borders that are currently managed by other agencies, including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Mt. Hood National Forest. In addition, the county did not include properties within the Urban Growth Areas of Hood River and Cascade Locks, leaving long-term planning for those areas to the cities in preparation for future annexation.

In January, Benedict used a $15,000 grant from the Department of Land Conservation and Development to hire Wetland Consulting of Portland. Joel Shaich of that firm mapped sites qualifying for Goal 5 protection. He was assisted in the creation of that inventory by the county’s technical advisory committee. That group included: Jennifer Donnelly, city senior planner; Jurgen Hess, city green space committee chair and chair of the city planning commission; John Everitt, vice-chair of the city planning commission; Holly Coccoli, Hood River Watershed Council; Bonnie Lamb, Department of Environmental Quality; Jeff Hunter, real estate agent; and Steve Pribyl, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department.

“The point of the (Goal 5) standard is to get people to think about doing their project without disturbing the resources,” Shaich said.

Benedict said many of the affected parcels are already sited within a floodplain and are subject to a 100 foot setback for development. He said those sites will not be affected by the 75 foot setback that is now proposed along the Hood River and 25 feet for other fish-bearing streams.

Although existing property uses are allowed to continue, the following activities will be prohibited on land that is not already under other protection guidelines:

* clearing of native plant species.

* grading, excavating or placement of fill materials.

* construction of new structures or impervious surfaces.

* Dumping, disposal or storage of materials, including garbage and yard debris.

In cases where a property owner believes his/her lot has been rendered unbuildable, Benedict has included a provision in the ordinance that allows for a variance from the rules.

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