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Critical Areas Ordinance

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  • What are “Critical Areas”?

    In Washington State, Critical Areas are identified in the Growth Management Act (GMA) and include: wetlands, critical aquifer recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, geologically hazardous areas, and fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas (both marine and upland). The GMA requires cities and counties to have regulations and other programs in place to protect these areas. The County’s first Critical Area regulations were adopted in 1991.
  • Why is San Juan County updating the Critical Area regulations?

    The GMA required review of the Best Available Science and, if necessary, an update of Critical Area regulations prior to December 2006. Counties that are not in compliance with the GMA are subject to financial penalties. (The Critical Aquifer Recharge Area regulations were revised in 2008 and are not part of the current update process.) State requirements have changed since the County’s existing Critical Area regulations were adopted. For example, additional fish and wildlife habitat must be protected (e.g. that for the Peregrine falcon, Marbled Murrelet, Southern resident orca and Chinook salmon) and Counties must now consider the “Best Available Science” when evaluating the effectiveness of current or proposed regulations.
  • What are the benefits of complying with the requirements of the Growth Management Act?

    Once we are compliant with the Growth Management Act we will have greater access to funds for public works projects and for protection of clean water (the Public Works Trust Fund and the Centennial Clean Water Fund).
  • What would happen if work on the Critical Area regulations was suspended?

    An appeal would likely be filed with the Growth Management Hearings Board, and the County would be ordered to resume work on updating the regulations.
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