By Marcy Stamper

Okanogan County’s update of its plan covering development and protections along lakes and rivers is a complicated document at 125 pages with eight appendices, maps and tables.

After 10 years of revisions on the county level, the Washington Department of Ecology is doing its own review as part of its process for approving the county’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP).

Ecology wants to be sure citizens in Okanogan County have enough time to provide feedback on the document, so the agency has extended the period for public comment. Ecology has scheduled a second comment window from April 11 through May 11.

“This is a large document that has taken some time to update. We want to ensure that all interested parties have a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on how shorelines are managed in Okanogan County for many years to come,” said Lennard Jordan with Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program.

The shoreline area is defined as everything within 200 feet of the ordinary high-water mark. As a result, the plan has important implications for new development along shorelines, for protection of people and structures from landslides and floods, and for preservation of water quality and wetlands. Shorelines plans also protect critical habitat and promote recreational opportunities and public access.

The county commissioners signed off on the current draft — the first since 1996 — last year, and sent the SMP to Ecology.

Ecology signs off on all plans for counties and cities in the state. The agency will incorporate public feedback in its own review of the plan, which will go to the commissioners later this year. Once approved by Ecology, the county’s shoreline program will become part of the state’s program.

Ecology has a citizen guide and a detailed handbook with an overview of the program. The citizen guide is available on Ecology’s website under Shoreline Master Program. For the handbook, see the section for the “toolbox.”

For more information or to comment, contact Jordan at lennard.jordan@ecy.wa.gov or (509) 457-7125.

The draft shoreline plan and appendices are available at okanogancounty.org/planning.