Three Harbor cities to navigate shoreline master program update

Three Grays Harbor cities are working together to update the region’s Shoreline Master Program which will manage the shorelines of the Chehalis, Hoquiam and Wishkah rivers, creeks and the Harbor.

Representatives from Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis met with the state Department of Ecology at Aberdeen City Hall last week and decided Hoquiam would take the lead. The three mayors are also involved in setting up the arrangement.

“Somebody had to take the lead and make sure (the cities) get what they want and have a good outcome,” said Hoquiam City Planner Josh Beach on Wednesday. Working together is “an excellent idea,” added Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay, noting that Hoquiam City Attorney Steve Johnson has already drafted an inter-local agreement. The agreement will be submitted for approval by each city’s council next month.

Shoreline towns and cities are required by state law to periodically update their Shoreline Master Program.

The project will act as a planning guide for the Chehalis River and Mill Creek and won’t likely make a huge difference regarding what can and can’t be done since most of Cosmopolis is already developed, Darrin Raines, public works and community development director for the city of Cosmopolis, said Thursday.

Shay and Aberdeen Community Development Director Lisa Scott agree the shoreline program may not change much, but can guide and update future development. “That is not to say it can’t happen (but) we are not expecting big changes,” Shay said. “You never know.”

Shay noted that Hoquiam just redid its comprehensive plan and changed zoning ordinances, so this will likely mirror that process for Hoquiam.

Aberdeen is also in the process of updating a chapter of its comprehensive plan, and will soon tackle zoning updates, Scott said.

Setbacks, or where businesses can develop based on the normal high water mark, will be examined and could be changed, Raines and Scott said. Cosmos Specialty Fiber is located near the waterfront and will be looked at during the process, but existing parameters will likely remain the same, Raines said.

The shoreline of the three cities is contiguous and is where the largest segment of population lives and works on the Harbor.

The project is funded by the state legislature through grants from Ecology and aims to preserve shoreline in Washington, Beach and Scott said. The project is expected to take three years. By pooling their grants, the three cities have $300,000 to hire a larger firm to provide the master shoreline program, Shay said. Aberdeen and Hoquiam were each awarded $125,00 and Cosmopolis was awarded $50,000, Raines said.

Raines, who is the brother in law of Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines, said he couldn’t remember the last time the three cities teamed up on a planning project. “It’s really neat.”

It makes sense to share a consultant since the shoreline is contiguous and the move can save money, representatives of the three cities agreed. The group is currently waiting to hear back from Ecology about whether they need to send out a request for qualifications or hire a consultant directly from an approved list, Shay said, adding that there are only a handful of consultants with substantive experience on the Harbor and issues “like the port” who will likely fit the bill.

The last master shoreline program was created in the 1970s. It was amended in the 1980s to include the Grays Harbor Estuary Plan for Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Scott said.

Raines said Cosmopolis was not part of the Grays Harbor Estuary update, which was last done in January of 1986, according to Beach.

When finished in August of 2016, the shoreline master program must be approved by each city’s council, Beach said. Open houses and meetings open to the public will be held throughout the process.