Hearing set on Walla Walla County critical areas ordinance

Changes have been made to the rules to change how potable water wells are protected.

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WALLA WALLA -- A new hearing on proposed changes to Walla Walla County's critical areas ordinance has been set for next month.

The public hearing to take testimony and comments will be held Nov. 22 during the county commissioners regular meeting, said Connie Vinti, clerk of the board. Commissioners opened, then closed, a hearing on the proposed amendments Tuesday.

The new hearing is due to the county's decision to file for a new determination of nonsignificance for the ordinance, said Tom Glover, director of county Community Development Department. The determination is required by the state Environmental Protection Act.

The proposed amendments are intended to satisfy a May order by the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. The board ordered the county to redraw the portion of its updated critical areas ordinance in regard to protection of potable water wells. The county was given until Oct. 29 to comply with the order to come into compliance with the state Growth Management Act.

Under state law, critical areas are defined as geologically hazardous areas, frequently-flooded areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas.

The hearing board's action came in response to challenges to the county's critical areas ordinance filed by two citizens' groups, Citizens for Good Governance and Futurewise.

The hearings board ruled the county had failed to use "best available science" to determine which parts of the 190 square miles of gravel aquifer in the county should be designated as "critical aquifer recharge areas" for potable water wells.

Glover said the county will file for an extension on the deadline for compliance with the board.

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