Community Development

Critical Areas

Comprehensive Plan
Unified Development Code (UDC)
Permit Information & Application Forms
Permit Database Search & Map Tools

621 Sheridan Street
Port Townsend,
WA 98368

Phone: 360.379.4450
Fax: 360.379.4451


Monday - Thursday
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Page last updated: 7/30/2009

New Items

Hearings Board Finds Full Compliance

The Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) revisions adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in May 2009 were further challenged by joint appellants.  The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board reviewed the case and issued a decision on July 20, 2009.  The Compliance Order finds that Olympic Stewardship Foundation (OSF) failed to prove Jefferson County's CAO was in error and that the County's CAO has achieved compliance with the Growth Management Act.  However, the previous Hearings Board Final Decision & Order issued in November 2008, is also being appealed by OSF to the Thurston County Superior Court with an anticipated hearing date in November 2009.  Pending results will be reported on this webpage.

BoCC Adopts Amendments to Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO)

The BoCC approved Ordinance #06-0511-09 on May 11, 2009 to comply with a Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board Final Decision and Order, which was issued on November 19, 2009.  Jefferson County was required to legislatively bring the Unified Development Code into compliance with the Growth Management Act by May 18, 2009.  The amendments to the CAO are intended to clarify what constitutes a high risk channel migration zone (CMZ) and to clarify vegetation removal requirements within a CMZ.  The approved ordinance changes code provisions for protecting CMZs within the five following rivers: Big Quilcene River, Little Quilcene River, Dosewallips River, Duckabush River, and the lower Hoh River.  The approved ordinance amends Jefferson County Code (JCC) Chapter 18.22, Article V (Geologically Hazardous Areas) and JCC 18.10.030 (C definitions).

CAO Revision for Hearings Board Compliance

The CAO is being revised to comply with the 11/19/08 Final Decision & Order (FDO) of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.  The Board's FDO requires changes to code provisions for protecting channel migration zones (CMZs) within the five following rivers: Big Quilcene River, Little Quilcene River, Dosewallips River, Duckabush River, and the lower Hoh River.  The purpose is to amend the Unified Development Code (UDC) to clarify regulatory requirements pertaining to CMZs.

Proposed line-in/line-out code language was provided to the Planning Commission on 2/18/09 and the group will hold a Public Hearing on March 18, 2009.  The hearing will be held at 6:30 pm at the WSU Learning Center, Shold Business Park, 201 W. Patison, Port Hadlock.  Written comments may also be submitted by March 25, 2009 to:

DCD - CAO Revision, 621 Sheridan St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

or via email to

View the code amendment packet below:

New CAO Adopted

The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) for Jefferson County adopted Ordinance #03-0317-08 on March 17, 2008, thereby enacting the Unified Development Code (UDC) amendment Title 18.22 Jefferson County Code for Critical Areas. This ordinance rescinds Title 18.15, formerly titled Environmentally Sensitive Areas.  The Critical Areas Ordinance #03-0317-08 DOES NOT change any existing exemptions to Agricultural activities as elucidated in Title 18.20, Jefferson County Code.

 Jefferson County Critical Areas Ordinance, Title 18.22 JCC 4MB


Planning Commission

Planning Commission Majority & Minority Reports

According to Planning Commission By-Laws, the group makes their official recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners by preparing a majority report.  A minority opinion report may also be prepared.  Planning Commission approval of this official recommendation ends the group's formal review of proposed code changes.  View and download both reports below:

NOTE:  files over 1 MB are indicated

Planning Commission Final Draft Code Recommendation

After further review and input, the Planning Commission revised their draft code language recommendation.  A majority and minority report are posted above with findings of fact to substantiate the recommended code revision.  The proposed code language document is available below:

Critical Areas Ordinance Public Hearing Draft Available

This hearing DRAFT of a proposed new Chapter 18.22 JCC would amend and recodify provisions principally contained within existing Chapter 18.15 of the Jefferson County Code.  The language embodied within this DRAFT is based upon preliminary direction provided by the Planning Commission.  “Clean copy” language not highlighted or underlined is substantively the same as the existing code; language depicted with double-underlining or strike-outs and double-underlining is proposed new or amendatory language.  

A new component of the Critical Areas Ordinance involves the provision of an optional landowner involvement process, which identifies specific performance standards on a site-by-site basis, with direct landowner involvement in the development of Critical Area Stewardship Plans.  The existing process of selecting the prescriptive standards is also offered.  

BackgroundOn January 18, 2006, the BoCC entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Washington Environmental Council (WEC) in order to resolve a petition before the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board filed by WEC following December 1, 2004, which was the statutory deadline for Jefferson County to complete a review and update of its Comprehensive Plan and development regulations according to RCW 36.70.130(4).  The review includes a requirement to consider “best available science” in establishing development regulations for protecting the functions and values of critical areas.

The BoCC directed staff to prepare a proposal for public review that corresponds with the Settlement Agreement with WEC.  This occurred on May 17, 2006.  Subsequently, public input was considered and an extensive public involvement process including the Planning Commission, a Critical Areas Review Committee of the Planning Commission, and an involved public, brought forward this recommended Ordinance language.  During that time, a second amendment to the Second Settlement Agreement extended the completion deadline to October 15, 2007.  Before that deadline was reached, a third amendment to the Second Settlement Agreement was agreed upon which set forth a deadline extension to January 18, 2008.

Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application (10/29/07)

Revised from the May 2006 application for amending the CAO section of the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan, this October 29 application accompanies the Planning Commission Public Hearing Draft CAO posted above.

Timeline Extension - July 2007

DCD developed a set of proposed amendments for the Unified Development Code (UDC) associated with the designation and protection of environmentally critical areas.  The proposal was developed in accordance with direction from the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) in January 2006 in relation to a settlement agreement reached with a growth management petitioner. 

REVISED TIMELINE: According to an anticipated amendment to the Second Settlement Agreement with growth management petitioner WEC, the BoCC is expected to take legislative action to amend Jefferson County's critical areas provisions on or before October 15, 2007

See the Planning Process 2004-2007 section below for more information, including an updated review schedule

Frequently Asked Questions


Critical Areas Committee & Advisory Group

At the August 2, 2006 meeting, the Planning Commission established a Critical Areas Committee and an associated Advisory Group composed of representative stakeholders.

Committee Timeline: The Critical Areas Committee & Advisory Group intends to complete a policy recommendation narrative and proposed code amendments by April 1, 2007.  The final reports of the Committee & Advisory Group will be forwarded to the Planning Commission and others for consideration.

In order to address multiple topics under the heading of GMA "critical areas," the Committee & Advisory Group has formed subcommittees that will conduct research and develop preliminary recommendations for consideration by the full group.  See the meeting notes for 9/28/06 below for information about the subcommittees and their membership.

Meetings of the Critical Areas Committee & Advisory Group are Thursdays in the Spruce Room at WSU Extension, Port Hadlock, generally 7:00 PM to 9:00 or 9:30.

The Critical Areas Committee & Advisory Group will not be meeting during the holiday season.  The meetings will start again on January 4, 2007. 

Critical Areas Committee Meeting Minutes & Agendas

Meeting announcements are submitted for the "Eye on Jefferson" section of the Peninsula Daily News and the "Government Meetings" section of the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.  These announcements are posted in the Planning Commission section of the DCD website.

SubGroup Reports Presented at 01/04/07 CA Committee Meeting

Wetlands notes: State Department of Ecology wetland specialists presented information related to the 2005 Ecology wetlands guidance at the September 14, 2006 Critical Areas Committee meeting. 

A member of the Critical Areas Advisory Group, Dr. Kenneth Brooks, delivered a slide presentation on October 19, 2006 regarding wetlands.  The text of his summary slides appears in this two-page PDF:


Other jurisdictions: The Critical Areas Committee has been examining how neighboring Island County protects critical areas functions with respect to exiting and ongoing agriculture.  For access to documents, visit:

DCD staff interviewed Island County Planning & Community Development staff and produced these meeting notes:


See the Planning Process 2004-2007 section below for more information, including an updated review schedule

Background: Growth Management Act

The Washington State Growth Management Act (the "GMA" codified in Chapter 36.70A RCW) presents 13 planning goals (RCW 36.70A.020).

Goal 10 is Environment: Protect the environment and enhance the state's quality of life, including air and water quality, and the availability of water.

The law requires counties and cities to designate and protect "critical areas," a GMA term that encompasses sensitive environmental features.

RCW 36.70A.030 Definitions.  (5): "Critical areas" include the following areas and ecosystems: (a) Wetlands; (b) areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water; (c) fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; (d) frequently flooded areas; and (e) geologically hazardous areas.

For critical areas, the definitions section of the Act at .030 includes (9) "Geologically hazardous areas" and (20) "Wetland" or "wetlands."

The State Legislature directed the State Department of Community, Trade & Economic Development (CTED) to adopt rules to implement GMA.  RCW 36.70A.050 tasks CTED with adopting minimum guidelines to classify critical areas; these were adopted in 1991 as WAC 365-190-080 within Chapter 365-190 WACDefinitions related to critical areas--beyond those in the GMA--appear in WAC 365-190-030.

Best Available Science Requirement

RCW 36.70A.172 Critical areas--Designation and protection--Best available science to be used.  The GMA was amended in 1995 to include the requirement that local jurisdictions consider "best available science" (BAS) when establishing protection measures for critical areas.

The State Legislature directed CTED to adopt rules to implement the BAS requirement.  The adopted rules form Part Nine of Chapter 365-195 WAC.

CTED Growth Management Services has compiled information related to BAS and critical areas planning and protection.

Current Protections

Development regulations to protect critical areas are found in Title 18 of the Jefferson County Code (JCC), Chapter 18.15 Land Use Districts, Article VI Overlay Districts: Articles VI-D through VI-J.

Article  Title
        VI-D   Environmentally Sensitive Areas

  District (ESA)

        VI-E   Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas
        VI-F   Frequently Flooded Areas
        VI-G   Geologically Hazardous Areas
        VI-H   Fish and Wildlife Habitat Areas
        VI-I   Wetlands
        VI-J   Special Reports

There is some overlap between designated critical areas and areas within shoreline jurisdiction, subject to the Jefferson County Shoreline Master Program.

If you are interested in asking about or applying for a permit for a development proposal, visit the Permit Information & Application Forms page and contact the Development Review Division.

Mapped Critical Areas on the Web

Individuals using the County Internet Map Server (IMS) function can now access critical areas information.  Instructions are provided under "What's New?" and "Help."

Map and studies were released in 2004 specific to East Jefferson County wildlife habitat and channel migration zones.

The Jefferson County Geography page presents select shoreline statistics.

Planning Process 2004-2007


Pursuant to RCW 36.70A.130(4), Jefferson County must take action every seven years to review and, if needed, revise its Comprehensive Plan and development regulations to ensure that the Plan and regulations continue to comply with the GMA. The deadline to complete the first seven-year update is December 1, 2004.

For more information on the State-mandated update, visit the webpage of CTED Growth Management Services.  CTED has a portal page for information on the update process, including these frequently asked questionsFor general information on Jefferson County's response to this mandate, visit the "2004 Update" page.

As part of the "2004 Update" process, County staff and consultants reviewed current BAS to determine whether amendments to critical area protections in the UDC are warranted as part of the review mandate under RCW 36.70A.130(4).

The 2004 Docket Integrated Staff Report and SEPA Addendum incorporates staff review of BAS and associated UDC amendment proposals.  The following two documents are Appendix Items in the Report:

The BAS Review references maps and reports released in 2004 on East Jefferson County Core Habitats & Corridors and Channel Migration Zone Hazards.


The author of the white paper reviewing BAS (Item 15 linked above) submitted a letter in response to comments received by the County concerning the critical areas proposal:


In the late autumn of 2004, the Planning Commission and staff jointly recommended the following to the BoCC with regard to protections for critical areas.

Proposed UDC amendments, 2004:

  • Proposed UDC Amendments per Review of Best Available Science with one additional change: Substitute the technical reference contained in UDC 3.6.9(1)(a).  Replace Washington State Department of Ecology's Wetland Rating System for Western Washington, 2nd Edition, 1993, with Washington State Wetland Rating System for Western Washington--Revised (Ecology Publication #04-06-014), August 2004.

On December 13, 2004, through Ordinance No. 17-1213-04, the BoCC re-adopted UDC Section 3, the section of the code that contains the regulatory protections for environmentally critical areas, rather than adopt the Planning Commission and staff-recommended UDC amendments or any other changes to the code.

The BoCC addressed this letter to the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) concerning the BAS requirement:

A copy of the letter was also sent to the State Dept. of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED) and other parties.



A petition for review was filed with the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB) by the Washington Environmental Council (WEC), asserting that the County's "failure to act" to modify critical areas protections in 2004 has resulted in a state of non-compliance with the GMA.

The County expects to bring into the public review process in 2005 a proposed set of UDC amendments related to critical areas protection.

As a form of introduction, the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) met with the Managing Director for CTED Growth Management Services and other State officials to discuss best available science (BAS) and critical areas on April 14 at WSU Extension in Hadlock.

The BoCC is the decision-making body for adoption of amendments to the development code.  The Planning Commission is the advisory body that will review proposed UDC amendments in a public process and make a recommendation to the BoCC.

DCD and the Planning Commission hosted three critical areas workshops in the months of May and June 2005.

The public workshops were held at the regular meeting times of the Planning Commission, 6:30 to 9:30 PM, at the WSU Community Learning Center in Hadlock.  The agendas included public comment periods following presentations from guests and discussion among Planning Commissioners and Long-Range Planning staff.

The schedule for the workshops included the following:

May 18: Wetlands & New DNR Stream Typing System

June 1: Channel Migration Zones & Preliminary Shoreline Inventory & Analysis

June 15: Wildlife Core Habitat Areas & Corridors, Conservation Planning, Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)


DCD has developed a set of proposed amendments for the Unified Development Code (UDC) associated with the designation and protection of environmentally critical areas.  The proposal was developed in accordance with direction from the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) in January 2006. 


Frequently Asked Questions


Updated Review Schedule & Process

May 17: DCD issues proposal for public review.  Legal notice appears in the Leader newspaper.  Initial timeline anticipates Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) legislative action on or before July 18, 2006.

The Planning Commission is tasked with developing a recommendation for BoCC consideration.

June 7:  The Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the proposal at the WSU Community Learning Center in Port Hadlock, 6:30 PM.  The public hearing is extended to June 21.

June 21: Planning Commission public hearing continues.  The Planning Commission extends the written comment period indefinitely.  Comments can be emailed to

July 10: The BoCC agrees to a settlement agreement amendment that delays consideration of the proposal.  The BoCC now expects to take legislative action on or before January 18, 2007.  The May 17 proposal will be revised through a Planning Commission committee process working with a group of representative stakeholders.

August 2: Planning Commission Critical Areas workshop to provide update on process and timeline and to answer questions from the public on the current proposal, process for revising the proposal, and Critical Areas requirements under State law.  Planning Commission meeting begins at 6:30 PM; Critical Areas topic is expected at approximately 7:30 PM.  See Planning Commission agenda and the DCD press releases.  The Planning Commission establishes a Critical Areas Committee with an associated Advisory Group of representative stakeholders.

August 10, 2006 to April 1, 2007: A Planning Commission committee works with an Advisory Group of representative stakeholders to review available scientific information, revise the May 17 proposal, and describe and defend the recommended revisions.  The committee-stakeholder process is open to the public.  A committee report is expected by April 1, 2007.

Note: The Committee was originally projected to complete its work by October 1, 2006.  On October 9, the BoCC granted a time extension request. 

Once the Critical Areas Committee Report is Completed: A revised Critical Areas proposal comes before the full Planning Commission and the general public.  The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing.  The BoCC may also hold a public hearing.  The BoCC is expected to make a legislative decision.

REVISED TIMELINE: According to an anticipated amendment to the Second Settlement Agreement with growth management petitioner WEC, the BoCC is expected to take legislative action to amend Jefferson County's critical areas provisions on or before October 18, 2007.


East Jefferson County Maps & Reports

The following east Jefferson County-specific maps and reports are referenced in the BAS review for the "2004 update" and subsequent 2005-2006 critical areas planning process.

Wildlife Habitat

Channel Migration Zones (CMZs)


The following CMZ maps are marked "Draft - For Review Only" during the review process for the 2006 Critical Areas code amendment proposal.  Final maps will be produced.  An "example legend" is also linked below providing more detail on the hazard zone classifications.  The 2006 CMZ maps have been updated from 2004 using Washington Department of Ecology CMZ protocols.

Note: Appendix B to the Klawon CMZ report, Historical Ortho-photography Metadata and Accuracy Reports, is available at DCD.

More Information

For more information on the critical areas planning process, contact the Long-Range Planning division. 

If you are interested in asking about or applying for a permit for a development proposal, visit the Permit Information & Application Forms page and contact the Development Review Division.

Additionally, the following are links to other sources of information about "best available science" (BAS) and the protection of critical areas:



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