Department of Ecology News Release - May 12, 2010

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Ecology Department appeals decision to allow individual docks at Coyote Rocks subdivision

SPOKANE – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has filed an appeal of a decision made by the city of Spokane Valley to authorize the construction of a dock on the Spokane River in a new development.

The dock has already been built without a permit, significantly damaging the shoreline by destroying vegetation and disturbing the natural character of the shoreline.

The decision being appealed is a letter of exemption, dated April 21, 2010, which was sent to Coyote Rock, LLC, authorizing construction of a floating dock and ramp on the Spokane River, in the city of Spokane Valley.

The city’s approval did not include the required “shoreline substantial development permit” required under the state’s 1972 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act.

Ecology has appealed the city’s decision to Spokane County Superior Court.

Cliff Mort, president of Neighborhood, Inc., is developing a 60-acre, 250-home subdivision called Coyote Rock near Upriver Dam within the city limits of Spokane Valley. Thirty waterfront parcels are being marketed as having individual, private docks.

The construction of docks at the Coyote Rock location is prohibited by the current Spokane County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) with the exception of single family docks for homeowners. The existing dock in question – one e of about 30 reportedly proposed for the subdivision – does not qualify for the exemption because it is speculative in nature. Its purpose is to sell lots with private docks.

While single family docks are exempt from obtaining a local substantial development permit, they still must be consistent with the Shoreline Management Act and local shoreline policies and regulations.

“This is a relatively undisturbed natural environment along the Spokane River that needs to be protected in order to continue providing important wildlife habitat, water quality benefits and recreational and aesthetic enjoyment for people who use the river,” said Sara Hunt who manages Ecology’s Shorelands program in Spokane.

“The state and the city have an important public trust responsibility to fulfill in managing this shoreline of statewide significance,” Hunt said. “We need to be mindful about how we put the Shoreline Management Act and the local shoreline master programs to work. The intent of the Act is to improve and protect shorelines and to prevent piecemeal and uncoordinated development.”

According to Hunt, the cumulative effects of locating 30 individual docks, each with its own access on this reach of river would mean significant degradation of the shoreline.

Ecology is asking the court to reverse the exemption issued by the city of Spokane Valley and deny the developer’s application. Another option would be to reverse the exemption and send the matter back to the city so it can include requirements in the exemption to construct joint-use or joint access docks only.

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