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Managing Land-Use Conflicts
Case Studies in Special Area Management
By David J. Brower, Daniel S. Carol
Duke University PressCopyright © 1987 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
Special Area Management Planning in Coastal Areas: The Process
Charles K. Walters
Special area management plans developed in Grays Harbor, Washington, and other coastal areas show great promise in reducing conflicts of development versus preservation. In most of these planning efforts, task forces composed of relevant local, state, and federal coastal interest groups or regulators work together to resolve use conflicts for a special area, preparing a plan to guide future regulatory decisions. The goal of this process is to improve the predictability of regulatory decisions and to trade off development in one part of the area in exchange for long-term preservation of the remaining portion. Certain principles, such as consensus decision making and balanced task force representation, are crucial to the success of the technique. Other elements of the process, such as implementation methods, will vary depending on individual circumstances.
Competition for use of coastal shorelands and aquatic areas, particularly those adjacent to port areas, continues to increase. Regulatory authorities have developed over the past decade to balance the need for new coastal development against other values such as critical habitat for important fish and wildlife. These regulations have also attempted to ensure that new development, if allowed, does not significantly degrade aquatic systems. Unfortunately, most local, state, and federal shoreline and water development permit procedures designed to guide development have traditionally functioned on a case-by-case basis, with little ability or authority to assess and control accumulative impacts of projects over time and along a shoreline. The need for a more comprehensive approach to coastal environmental regulation has therefore become evident.
The Coastal Zone Management Act provides states the potential to develop longer-range plans for shorelines and aquatic areas, but most state plans are general and policy-oriented rather than geographically specific and they have little project-siting capability. Some coastal management efforts have attempted, however, to integrate land- and water-use planning efforts with review procedures, such as those required under NEPA (National Environmental Planning Act). One such effort, the Grays Harbor Estuary Management Plan, has attempted to integrate all such procedures into a detailed, site-specific, long-range agreement between local, state, and federal bodies. Although the agreement process has encountered some difficulties due to changing federal policies (such as federal wetland protection guidelines), the effort has precipitated positive changes in national legislation for future planning efforts.
Specifically, the Grays Harbor planning effort was instrumental in a 1980 amendment to the Coastal Zone Management Act to encourage Special Area Management Planning (SAMP) efforts, even though no guidance has ever been developed by the agency implementing the Act—the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The Grays Harbor SAMP process also influenced changes in the Clean Water Act (section 404, 1982 version), which enabled stratified permit decisions to occur in the plan process and for advanced identification of dredged material disposal sites as well as de-designating sites for dredged material disposal. Other SAMP efforts at Yaquina Bay, Oregon, Lower Willamette River, Oregon, Coos Bay, Oregon, and Kenai, Alaska, discussed briefly in this chapter, have also provided valuable lessons for future SAMP efforts in coastal and estuarine areas.
The geographical areas included in the following discussion are marine, estuarine, and freshwater aquatic areas as well as adjacent shorelines. By compressing all anticipated conflicts into the present, the mediated, consensus SAMP process should provide the predictability needed by development interests for investment purposes and by conservation interests for long-term protection of important ecological areas. The SAMP process requires an open, give-and-take atmosphere, however. In areas of historical conflict between development and conservation interests, it is difficult to initiate and complete such a process. All the ingredients must be there: the right people, the right process, commitment by all represented groups, funding, and a "superhuman" facilitator/consultant, SAMP is not a method that should be attempted everywhere, but it does offer a solution where large-scale conflicts exist between development needs and long-range natural resource productivity, SAMP should be considered where the time and effort can be prorated in the future to provide predictability not otherwise available.
Initiating the SAMP process
Prior to embarking on an estuary planning effort, careful analysis needs to occur on the need for such an exhaustive planning effort, SAMP is not a simple cure-all process. Quite the opposite: SAMP is costly, time-consuming, and stressful as well as politically dangerous for participants. Some analysts have likened SAMP to a high-stakes poker game. If the desire is sufficient, however, the effort can be worth it for all involved. Long-term predictability for all interests is the key benefit.
As part of the original "needs" test to determine if a SAMP is the best solution, a series of important issues or problems usually arise. In the Grays Harbor case, for example, an application to build a site to manufacture offshore drilling equipment generated substantial controversy and eventually provided the impetus for the formation of the Grays Harbor Estuary Management Task Force. Agencies or groups that are expected to be important in decisions on these catalyzing issues should be members of the planning task force. Otherwise, key groups that are not represented on the decision-making body may not accept the SAMP agreements and may litigate or hinder plan progress. One mistake identified by some in the Grays Harbor plan was to exclude a conservation representative from the task force. Continued adverse publicity to the Grays Harbor plan has occurred, largely due to the choice in task force composition.
The public plays an important role in planning processes in coastal areas. Several techniques can be used to secure their participation. One technique is to choose at-large members for the task force representing a balance of public opinion. Another is to have conservation and development groups select a representative. Still another is to utilize balanced representation from existing state Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Citizen Advisory Groups. Whatever technique is chosen depends on the local situation. It is imperative, however, that the size of the task force be kept workable while maintaining a balance between conservation and development interests.
Once the important players have decided that a need exists for a comprehensive, long-term, balanced plan with enough detail for predictability, a lead agency should be agreed upon. The lead agency should be mutually trusted by development and conservation interests. Traditionally, counties or multi-county agencies, such as councils of governments (COGs) or regional planning commissions have been lead agencies in western states, while state agencies have been the lead in gulf and eastern states. Careful thought also needs to go into how the planning effort might be implemented, thus possibly influencing the selection of a lead agency. Special area management plans developed in states with federally approved coastal management programs may rely, for example, on specific provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act to ensure that future federal actions or projects will be consistent with the plan's intent.
One of the first agenda items for the task force is to select a facilitator. This task will be one of the most important throughout the process. Although it is extremely important that the facilitator work for the task force, he/she must be imaginative, creative, and able to skillfully guide the group through difficult times. The facilitator must be neutral and trusted by all SAMP representatives. The facilitator must appreciate and understand aquatic and terrestrial natural resources and their requirements, including cumulative adverse impacts and the role of ecosystem-wide planning rather than isolated case-by-case decisions. The facilitator must also understand port, industrial, commercial, and residential pressures and needs.
During the SAMP development effort, there will be a continual need for planning creativity, mediation, alternative courses of action, and caucusing. A complete, retrievable record of decisions will be needed. Since the SAMP process is so long and entails so many complex agreements, task force members will forget exactly what they agreed to. The facilitator will have to build on these agreements each session and will have to continually summarize agreements made to date. All of this dictates a methodical record-keeping system, available to task force members on request. Consultant/facilitator delays because of overcommitment have been a major problem in previous SAMPS. Frank discussions with potential consultants on expectations and deliverables should help alleviate this problem.
Developing the SAMP
A skilled facilitator should carefully structure the agenda of the first session around simple tasks to build cohesion, sort out the players, and establish written and unwritten rules. An aggressive, unseasoned facilitator could begin to dominate the task force at this time, however, and push some task force members in a direction they are uncomfortable in going. A fine line exists between suggesting concepts and alternatives and "pushing the process" in a certain direction. Part of the "sorting out" will be the task force/facilitator role. If the task force is all new to the game, the facilitator could overdirect the task force.
Seating is very important, as is the size and "feel" of the room. The task force seating should be equal around a table or square of tables. Theater seating is not conducive to team-building and should not be used. Task force members should be convinced of their importance in this effort by having an important speaker set the stage. A local, state, or federal elected official (or combination) would be ideal, providing they have been properly briefed.
All agreements must be made by consensus. Consensus is a basic principle of SAMP.
All task force members are equal and should be fully involved. Not to speak out on an issue will be interpreted as agreement. A voting or minority viewpoint may lead to nonsupport of the plan. Since this arrangement may be a new role for some task force representatives, it is important to make sure consensus procedure is well understood by all task force members.
The SAMP process works effectively only if consensus can be reached and task force members can give and take with professional respect for each other. In Grays Harbor, for example, state and federal resource agencies and the Port of Grays Harbor were in warring camps prior to the plan. During the planning process a mutual trust developed enabling informal resolution of a number of issues that arose. Several permits were issued on the strengths of the planning decisions made to that point, even though a lot of give-and-take, caucusing, and mediating was ahead. This good-faith gesture on the part of the agencies was met with equal good faith on the part of the Port of Grays Harbor by not using its known political strength to direct the plan or certain projects as it chose. A phone call is now usually enough to solve issues.
Two additional imperatives should be assumed for estuarine SAMP efforts: use a natural resource base for decision making, and plan for water and shoreline uses that are compatible with long-term resource conservation. Past and existing shoreline uses should not dictate future shoreline and adjacent aquatic area uses without regard for adverse impacts on aquatic resources. Historic shoreline and upland uses were developed when land was inexpensive and resources were deemed inexhaustible. Aquatic productivity has recently become an important factor in many shoreline areas and could be a limiting factor not only in future availability of valuable resources, such as fish and shellfish, but also in water quality and livability in that area. One can no longer afford to ignore the natural resources in an area or impacts of upland uses on those resources.
Once the task force ground rules have been outlined and agreed to, actual planning can begin in earnest. Usually the first step involves the development of the planning boundary—to define the geographic scope of the special area being considered. Sufficient uplands should be included to deal with alternative locations and construction techniques for proposed projects. A railroad line or highway or similar mappable feature works well for the landward boundary of the plan. In addition, decisions should be made for the land-water interface. Jurisdictions change at the land-water interface. State and federal permit authority exists in water and wetland areas. Use of the Clean Water Act's section 404 line or the line of nonaquatic Vegetation (or Army Corps of Engineers-Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction line) is one easy solution.
Another decision to be made is how to deal with the water area of the plan. The Grays Harbor plan divides upland and adjacent areas from water at the ordinary high water line because of state planning laws. The bulk of estuarine waters are a single unit, affected by adjacent shoreline and wetland uses and activities. The best example of planning from the water shoreward is the Lower Willamette River management plan, completed in 1973 for the Portland, Oregon, River and adjacent shorelines. In that case, numerous existing uses were deemed to be nonconforming and to have an unacceptable adverse impact on natural resources and, therefore, were planned for future phaseout. Other SAMP efforts have identified large blocks of water area, identified general uses, and developed policies for specific future uses.
The task force must then develop and agree on general planning and plan implementation procedures. Questions to be answered include:
1. Does the task force expect to make detailed decisions on all future uses along the active shoreline? An alternative is to have general-use areas with specifics to be defined at the permit stage. The degree of predictability will be directly correlated to the detail of decisions made.
2. Are specific biophysical management units to be utilized? In Grays Harbor these units were determined by similar physical, biological, urbanized areas. Some management units (MUS) were less than a mile of shoreline while others were much larger.
3. Is an estuary-wide mitigation-restoration plan envisioned? Early discussion of definitions, procedures, and limitations should occur. "De-designation" under section 404 of the Clean Water Act should be considered.
4. Will there be a dredged material disposal plan developed? If so, advanced designation under section 404 of the Clean Water Act should be considered and procedures understood.
5. Are any endangered species known or suspected? Specific federal and/or state procedures will have to be followed if endangered species are found within the plan area.
6. What will the exact sequence of planning events be? In Grays Harbor, for example, it was agreed to make decisions in phases. The first circuit around the estuary was to determine general planning area boundaries (for five areas). During the next circuit forty-four management unit boundaries were determined, then uses, specific projects, etc. The task force tried to avoid unresolved issues, but those that occurred were left until the circuit was complete to enable system-wide balancing and trade-offs.
7. Where and when will public input be sought? Should the public be briefed at public hearings at key phases in the planning schedule, by mail-out tabloids, or merely through the completed "straw man" draft? Will all planning sessions be open to the public?
All foreseeable implementation procedures such as amendments, plan updates, appeals, plan adoption, the need for an environmental impact statement, and details of plan adoption and commitment should also be addressed up front. The future role of the task force in each of these processes should be agreed to. It is advisable to have the task force involved in all future changes in the plan or it will disintegrate upon the first imbalancing change.
Next the task force may wish to develop a series of large-scale inventory maps for decision making. Most of the information needed for the planning data base probably exists in agency files. A technical subcommittee or subtask force may be necessary to collect such information and, working with the lead agency and consultant staff, to put it into a format usable by the task force. Large charts and maps put on the walls of the meeting room will enhance memories and facilitate decisions.
Excerpted from Managing Land-Use Conflicts by David J. Brower, Daniel S. Carol. Copyright © 1987 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents
Special Area Management Planning in Coastal Areas: The Process,
Special Area Management at Estuarine Reserves,
Baltimore Harbor Environmental Enhancement Plan,
San Bruno Mountain Habitat Conservation Plan,
New York's Adirondack Park Agency,
New Jersey Pinelands Commission,
Urban Parks: Are They Successful or Unrealistic?,
Impasse on the Upper Delaware,
Montgomery County Agricultural Preservation Program,
A Brief Bibliography of Special Area Management Experiences,
About the Editors and Authors,