County updating Critical Areas Ordinance
By Scott Hall, KCAA Director & Local Farmer
Kitsap County is currently undergoing a required review/update of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO)
The CAO covers several topics, but the one that most directly affects agriculture on a continuing basis is wetlands.
The Kitsap County CAO has always included certain wetlands exemptions for agriculture. The exemptions are related to “existing and ongoing agriculture” on lands that contain wetlands. Generally, if land containing wetlands was used for farming at the time the CAO was enacted (early 1990’s), and has remained in agricultural use since that time, the normal CAO wetlands restrictions do not apply.
During the update process KCAA and many private individuals will be keeping a close eye on any proposed changes to the CAO that would affect agricultural use of lands that may contain wetlands. So far, the county has collected quite a few comments through the “electronic town hall” process.
County staff reviews all comments received, and several comments generated by members of KCAA and others have already resulted in modifications to the draft CAO. It is our intent to ensure the county does not make existing CAO exemptions subject to unreasonable conditions or additional requirements that conflict with the basic agricultural exemptions allowed under federal law.
There will be multiple opportunities to provide testimony, either in person or in writing at a number of public hearings related to the CAO update. Please keep yourselves informed about the CAO, and all it covers. Wetlands and agriculture are just one small, but important aspect of everything the CAO regulates.