State shows some flexibility as city leaders try to complyWARRENTON - The state's land conservation department appears to be a little more willing to work with the city on bringing it into compliance with statewide planning goals on wetland protection.

Recently, city officials were shocked by what seemed like an aggressive stance by the state's Land Conservation and Development department and commission to force the city to impose a ordinance that had been resoundingly denounced by the public.

Warrenton is under an order by the development commission to come into compliance with the state's planning Goal 5, which protects wetlands. To do that the city has been working on an environmental social economic energy (ESEE) analysis as an alternative to the ordinance that has been soundly rejected by Warrenton's citizens.

The city supposedly had until Aug. 6 to have that analysis done or the development commission would enforce an order that would impose a wetlands law known as the "safe harbor ordinance" that has been viewed as too restrictive.

With more than half of its total area considered wetlands, a large part of Warrenton's future development hinges on succesfully complying with state regulations.

Near the end of July, City Manager Scott Derickson and planner Patrick Wingard told the board of commissioners that after a meeting with the development commission they learned the state would impose the safe harbor ordinance and neither allow the city to complete its ESEE nor allow it to retain an interim ordinance that has proved more favorable than the safe harbor one.

Wingard said the interim ordinace does not make some wetland areas more significant than others. The safe harbor ordinance determined significance using standards and methodology created by the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and approved by the Division of State Lands.

But now Laren Woolley the development department's regional representative, said the state needs "to work with the city to develop something that works."

That could be the ESEE or some other approach, but he said something needs to be done so that the hundreds of wetland acres in Warrenton are protected in compliance with Goal 5.

And in the meantime, he said he believes Warrenton should be able to use its interim ordinance and not have to use the safe harbor one from September last year.

"Aug. 6 has come and gone and there is, well, basically we haven't completed this work task," he said.

The first priority, Woolley said, is to get Warrenton to complete its ESEE and get into compliance with Goal 5. He said he would be willing to work with the city to make that happen. "We've had some good conversations with them the last few days," he said.

City planner Wingard said he's learned that the ESEE should be appropriate and is continuing to modify it. One of the earlier issues had been the state had said in its draft form the ESEE wouldn't be acceptable but did not say why.

Now Wingard said he has the feedback he needed to create something more to the state's liking. "The city will continue to work with the state to ensure its resources are protected in compliance with Goal 5," he said.

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