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Planning Commission backs new shoreline standards

Thursday, September 30, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Planning Commission supported recommendations on new shoreline standards for bulkheads and trams Tuesday night but added a caveat, asking city leaders to consider regulating watercraft in a way to minimize the destruction of lake shorelines.


Opponents, contractors who handle the bulk of permitting and building along the lake, have protested the new standards on a number of fronts, saying the ordinance should not move forward without the accompanying environmental criteria manual, that the ordinance would limit time-tested materials currently being used in bulkheads, that the slope requirement in the ordinance would limit the types of bulkheads, and that damage along the shoreline is caused by watercraft.


Commissioner Dave Anderson, the engineer on the commission, was initially hesitant to move forward with the ordinance. Eventually he was won over.


“This is not forever,” Anderson told his colleagues. “If it doesn’t work, we can come back and do it again, but it’s going to move the ball forward in protecting this resource of ours, and that’s important.”


The only commissioner who didn’t sign onto the standards was Alfonso Hernandez. Hernandez was worried some of the parameters set out in the ordinance would rob owners of their property rights. The final vote was 8-1.


Phil Moncada, a member of the Environmental Board who is also a contractor, led the speakers in opposition to the ordinance. He said environmental biologist Andrew Clamann’s recommendations did not address the lake as it was: a land-locked river, Moncada told the commission.


Clamann was able to answer some objections. For instance, materials such as concrete can still be used, as long as they are used internally and not externally. And turf lawns would not be lost entirely. The new standards, including native plantings, would apply only to new or renovated bulkheads and trams.


Clamann’s presentation included explanations of some of the themes raised by the Planning Commission’s subcommittee: continued access, feasibility of bringing in materials, cost of compliance, compliance with federal permits, and prohibition of land capture or restoration.


The one point that couldn’t be resolved was the objection that the bulkheads were the only cause of degradation of the lakeshore. In the final recommendation, Commissioner Mandy Dealey suggested language that would strongly encourage Council to regulate the watercraft that cause lakeshore issues because structural protections alone are insufficient.


Anderson clarified that the issue is not simply erosion. The ordinance is intended to address the riparian health of the lake’s ecosystem, he said.


The recommendation to Council also asked for a definition of reclamation of land in the environmental criteria manual, which would allow some amount of backfilling to reclaim land lost due to erosion.

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