WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently finalized its long-term effort to develop an updated McNary Shoreline Management Plan after six years of environmental reviews, public meetings, consideration of public comments, and subsequent adjustments to various drafts of the plan. This new plan updates a 1983 shoreline plan to comply with environmental laws, addresses 73 current dock permit holder requirements and allow for up to 27 new private docks on the public shoreline.
With the plan finalized, current private dock owners can now apply to renew their existing dock permits, and new community dock permit applications for two to four households are now being accepted. Individual private dock applications are planned to be accepted later this year after community dock permit applications are considered. Accepting community dock applications first is in response to the preference of members of the public who provided comments to the Corps.
“We listened to the public and did our best to incorporate input and arrive at a reasonable plan that balances requirements with the desires of the public. We followed a well-established environmental review process to reach this point, including good collaboration with the other agencies,” said Lt. Col. David Caldwell, Walla Walla District commander. “In this plan, environmental and cultural resources requirements have been balanced with recreation desires. We’re now ready to begin processing existing dock permit renewals and new dock permit applications.”
The updated shoreline plan provides guidance for managing the McNary reservoir (Lake Wallula) shoreline stretching from McNary Dam to the Tri-Cities in Washington in order to protect endangered fish and habitat. It addresses rules and regulations, shoreline allocations and requirements for permitting private use of public lands managed by the Corps. It addresses permits for private docks and vegetation mitigation on the public shoreline. The plan takes a programmatic approach to address all private docks on the public shoreline at one time. In doing so, individual private dock owners or adjacent private property owners are spared the effort and expense of conducting individual environmental and real estate reviews.
Three categories of private docks are addressed in the new plan: Existing docks, new community docks for two to four households, and new individual docks. Detailed information and a copy of the shoreline plan are available on the District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/McNaryShoreline/default.asp or by calling the Corps’ Ice Harbor Natural Resources Management office at 509-543-6062 or 509-543-6060.
All dock construction or modification work must be accomplished during winter seasonal “in-water work windows” from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 when risk to endangered fish species is lowest.
Existing dock owners will receive a letter from the Corps outlining what they need to do to renew their existing dock permits. The Corps requests those dock owners apply for a permit renewal by Aug. 1, 2012. Most of the 73 existing docks may be allowed to remain per the conditions of the 2011 dock inspection if the dock is in a safe condition and has not been extensively modified without authorization. When replacing a major dock component such as decking or floats, current dock owners will be required to use materials that comply with design criteria in the 2012 shoreline plan.
Sale or transfer of the adjacent property will require that the new owner upgrade the dock to the 2012 design criteria within four in-water work
windows. Permittees shall disclose these requirements to all potential buyers of the permittee’s land or residence. Disclosure of these conditions to future owners is a condition of the permit.
New community dock applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis March 23 through June 30, 2012. Community docks are larger docks shared by two to four households of property owners adjacent to the federal shoreline. The Corps is encouraging community docks because they reduce overall impact on endangered fish species and habitat. Community docks also help owners share costs and allow for a larger float size than individual docks. Community docks will require formation of a dock association. Approved new community dock s must be constructed according to 2012 plan design criteria within four in-water work windows after the permit is approved.
New individual dock applications will be accepted July 1 – 31, 2012, if any of the 27 allowable new dock permits remain available after community dock applications are processed. If more individual dock applications are received than the total number of remaining permits available, then a random lottery drawing will be held by the Corps. The lottery would also generate a standby list in case a dock permit became available at a future date. Approved new individual dock s must be constructed according to 2012 plan design criteria within four in-water work windows after the permit is approved.
All private dock permits approved are issued or renewed for five year periods. Proposed dock permit actions on the public shoreline and project waters must be located in areas designated as “Limited Development” areas. Issuance or renewal of a permit does not guarantee long-term permission or that permits will be issued to future landowners.
New docks must be constructed according to 2012 shoreline plan criteria. A new dock or upgrades must be constructed within four in-water work windows after the permit application is approved. The permit will be revoked and made available to another applicant if it’s not constructed within that time frame. Dock floats normally must be placed no less than 40 feet from the ordinary high water mark on the shoreline, but safety considerations may allow a lesser minimum distance if doing so would place a dock float in the navigation pathway.
The plan also addresses vegetation modification and maintenance activities for landowners adjacent to the federal shoreline, whether or not they have a dock. It does not apply to public docks such as municipal docks, which are subject to other requirements.