Critical Areas Ordinance – Comments Part 5



There are multiple ecological functions of buffers. Evaluation of functions may require expertise in wetlands, streams, habitat, soil science, hydrology, hydrogeology, and/or stormwater.

Currently, the department appears to rely entirely on wetland reports and habitat management plans from wetland specialists and fish/wildlife biologists, respectively. However, their expertise may not extend to all the technical areas necessary for adequate evaluation of buffer functions. As a result, adverse impacts such as dewatering or erosion may be, and have been, incorrectly assessed or entirely overlooked.

In addition, the wetland mitigation report per 19.700.715.B.6.c & B.10.b requires assessments of the “water regime” that are within the scope of a professional hydrogeologist or professional engineer. The same issue exists for habitat management plans 19.700.720.C.2 when all ecological functions are assessed.

We have observed incorrect or inappropriate determinations by wetland specialists. For example, a claim of “no adverse impacts” when risk of wetland erosion is present. Or a claim that stormwater control is adequate when the specialist lacks such expertise. For a wetland specialist or wildlife biologist to make determinations outside their area of expertise and/or impinging on fields covered by professional licensing (e.g. geology, hydrology, or engineering) is likely illegal.

Rewrite the requirements for authors in 19.700.715.A.2 & 19.700.720.C.6. Prohibit determinations outside of an author’s specific area of expertise. Require evaluations by soil scientist, professional geologist, professional hydrogeologist, or professional engineer as appropriate.

Text of 19.700.720.C.2 is unclear. Delete the first “and”. Revise first sentence to read “ecological quality, and functions and values.” “Ecological quality” requires definition. Second sentence, what does the indefinite “This” refer to?

Scope of 19.700.720.C mentions only vegetation. Add a requirement to evaluate all important ecological functions of buffers including hydrology and hydrogeology.


Evaluation by specialists of critical area functions and values and buffer functional attributes must be subject to reasonable verification on appeal. Allowing such verification is intended to address inaccuracies or inadequacies of professional reports that have been observed in the past.

In addition, authenticity of reports should not be compromised by departmental editing of professional reports. Again, this recommendation is offered in response to an actual situation.

We recommend the following subsections be appended to 19.700.705:

F. Access for on-site investigations. A third-party may request access to a site for the purpose of conducting an investigation by a professional of their choosing. The third-party shall present a professionally sound reason for additional investigation. Should the owner or Applicant refuse access, the Review Authority (21.04.100) shall not rule against or devalue the third-party’s professional opinions on the basis that the third-party did not conduct site investigations.

G. Integrity of reports. No special report shall be edited or amended by the department.