WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold an open house and information meeting about a revised McNary Shoreline Management Plan on Wednesday evening, Nov. 9, at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel at 2525 North 20th Avenue in Pasco. The open house begins at 5:30 p.m. and the public meeting is scheduled 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Public comments about the draft revised shoreline plan, associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) are also being accepted by the Corps through Nov. 27.
The updated shoreline plan provides guidance for managing the McNary reservoir (Lake Wallula) shoreline stretching from McNary Dam to the Tri-Cities. It addresses rules and regulations, shoreline allocations and requirements for permitting private use of public lands managed by the Corps including permits for private docks and vegetation mitigation on the public shoreline. The plan hasn’t been updated since 1983, and environmental and cultural resources requirements have changed significantly since then.
The draft revised plan allows individual private docks and encourages shared private “community docks” for up to four households as the Corps seeks to balance environmental stewardship and legal requirements with public recreation needs. 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.
Since a June 9, 2011, public meeting in Pasco, the Corps extended the previous public comment period, considered those new public comments, and met with groups of property owners potentially affected by the plan. Based on the public comments, a number of changes have been made to the plan. Dock owners must generally meet fish-friendly requirements of maximizing depth, minimizing in-water structure and maximizing light levels in the vicinity of their docks, but the Corps will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Highlights of the recent changes in the draft Oct. 2011 shoreline plan include:
- The most significant change generally allows owners of existing private docks to make no upgrades as long as those docks are safe and they haven’t been significantly modified since the last permit was issued, except that replacement of major dock components (decking, floats, walkways) must be replaced consistent with new dock criteria components. The previous draft had required current private dock owners to upgrade their docks to new criteria within two winter seasonal “in-water work windows” from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 when risk to endangered fish species is lowest.
- Existing individual private docks must be upgraded to new 2011 dock criteria when the property is sold or title is transferred within four winter seasons. This time frame allows property buyers twice as much time to upgrade an existing dock since it doubles the previously drafted requirement for new owners to complete upgrades within two winter seasons.
· Community docks shared by up to four families are encouraged and have several benefits. Compared to individual docks, they reduce overall impact on endangered fish species and habitat. Also, an individual community dock co-owner’s property sale would not trigger mandatory dock upgrades. Community docks help owners share costs and allow for a larger float size than individual docks. Community docks will require formation of a dock association.
- Significant existing private dock components such as decking and floats will also need to be upgraded to new dock criteria if and when they are replaced.
- The plan calls for dock floats to normally 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.
- Newly built private docks will need to conform to the new dock criteria when constructed. A new dock must be constructed within two in-water work windows after the application is approved. The permit will be revoked and made available to another applicant if it’s not constructed within that time frame.
- More information is available at www.nww.usace.army.mil/McNaryShoreline/default.asp.
“The Corps and other agencies are applying a more common-sense approach to this plan within the limits of the Endangered Species Act,” said Lt. Col. David Caldwell, Walla Walla District commander. “Some exceptions to dock design criteria may be granted by the Corps on a case-by-case basis, but we’re still looking to meet our federal obligations, be good stewards of the environment, and optimize recreation benefits.”
A total of 100 private docks will be allowed including individual and community docks. The plan allows for 27 new private docks, which can be individual or community docks. Applications for new docks are not yet being accepted by the Corps. Application procedures are being developed and the Corps is interested in hearing suggestions about application procedures. For example, community dock applications might be accepted and reviewed prior to individual dock applications.
Public docks such as municipal docks are addressed under separate policies.
Detailed fact sheets plus the latest drafts of the McNary Shoreline Management Plan, revised EA and FONSI are available for review on the District’s website at www.nww.usace.army.mil/McNaryShoreline/default.asp. Everyone is encouraged to review these items for the full details.
Public comments may be submitted to the Corps through Nov. 27 by email to McNarySMP@usace.army.mil; by fax to (509) 527-7832; or by U.S. Mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District; ATTN: Cindy Boen/MSMP, 201 N. 3rd Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362. The public is encouraged to submit lengthy or technical comments in writing since time may be limited at the public meeting. For additional information, contact Cindy Boen, Corps project manager, at (509) 527-7246.
Most of the shoreline on McNary Dam’s reservoir (Lake Wallula) is federally managed. As a good environmental steward, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, manages public shorelines around Lake Wallula, including both the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Tri-Cities area (Pasco, Richland, Kennewick) of Washington.
In 2005, the Corps began the process of updating the Shoreline Plan, which included gathering public input, conducting a scientific literature review and a bathymetric survey of parts of the shoreline, and working with other state and federal agencies to craft a new plan that would meet the requirements of federal laws and policies, balanced with public recreation. Working within a well-established process, the Corps completed Endangered Species Act consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011. A plan is required by federal law and Corps policy.