Critical areas ordinances
The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that jurisdictions designate (RCW 36.70A.170(d)) and protect (RCW 36.70A.060(2)) critical areas. The GMA defines critical areas as wetlands, critical habitat, geologic hazard areas, flood hazard areas, and critical aquifer recharge areas (RCW 36.70A.030(5)). The county has ordinances for each of these that can be found in Clark County Code (CCC), Title 40.
The GMA also requires that critical area ordinances be based on best available science (BAS) (RCW 36.70A.172). BAS most often comes from state and federal resource agencies that are the best sources of information about designating critical areas and then protecting the functions and values they provide. The county concluded in the 2016 comprehensive plan update that its critical area ordinances were still based on BAS.
The GMA also has a provision that jurisdictions give ‘special attention to anadromous fish’, fish (like salmon) that spawn in freshwater and mature in the ocean (RCW 36.70A.172(1)).
Clark County’s critical areas ordinances are summarized below.
Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARAs)
Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas are identified as important for recharging aquifers. Aquifers are underground areas containing groundwater used for domestic and business purposes. CARAs are addressed in CCC Chapter 40.410 which was last updated in 2009 by Ord. 2009-03-02.
Flood Hazard Areas
The purpose of the flood hazard ordinance (CCC Chapter 40.420) is to protect public health and safety by limiting development in areas that are susceptible to flood waters. The county worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update the county’s flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) in 2012. Ord. 2012-07-15 adopted these maps and made other changes to the flood hazard areas ordinance.
Geologic Hazard Areas
The purpose of the geologic hazard ordinance (CCC Chapter 40.430) is to protect public health and safety by limiting development in geologically hazardous areas, such as areas with steep slopes, landslide hazards, seismic hazards, or volcanic hazards. The county in 2005 adopted hazard maps developed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (Ord. 2005-04-15) and last updated the ordinance in 2012 (Ord. 2012-07-16).
Habitat Conservation Ordinance
The goal of the habitat conservation ordinance (HCO; CCC Chapter 40.440) is no net loss of habitat functions and values within designation habitat areas by protecting environmentally distinct, fragile and vulnerable fish and wildlife habitat areas while allowing reasonable use of private property. Updates to the HCO were made in 2006 (Ords. 2006-06-09, 2006-07-09, and 2006-08-03). The most recent update was done in 2014 Ord. 2014-12-05) to include new wetland buffers required to protect habitat functions and wetlands.
Wetland Protection Ordinance
The purpose of the wetlands protection ordinance (CCC Chapter 40.450) is to further the goal of no net loss of wetland functions, provide for a high level of protection for higher-quality wetlands, and encourage restoration and enhancement of degraded and low quality wetlands, while allowing reasonable use of private property. Updates to the ordinance were made in 2006 (Ord. 2006-05-27). The most recent update was done in 2014 Ord. 2014-12-05) to include new wetland buffers required to protect habitat functions and wetlands.
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