Curry County Considers Coastal Hazards

 Chetco River jetties at high tide.\Photo by Lawrence Witt.
Chetco River jetties at high tide.\Photo by Lawrence Witt.

On Nov. 1, the Curry County Board of Commissioners will consider whether to pass amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan. The amendments would update county hazard planning by requiring consideration of new hazard maps issued by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, and place reasonable restrictions on land that is located in hazard areas.

The hearing deals with the Natural Hazards provisions in the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to better implement Statewide Planning Goal 7 (Natural Hazards) and to reflect up-to-date information about the hazards to which coastal communities are vulnerable.  The hearing, continued from an earlier one in August, is part of a general commissioners’ meeting, beginning at 10 a.m. in the Curry County Courthouse (29821 Ellensburg Ave., which is Hwy 101) Annex Hearing Room.

The county’s community director recently issued a recommendation to deny the zoning ordinance and plan amendments, arguing that the changes proposed are not mandated, that existing ordinance and plan language provides adequate hazard area regulation, and that adoption of the amendments are not in the public interest.

Oregon Shores hopes that the county commissioners ignore the director’s recommendation and approve the amendments.  We strongly argue that the amendments are in the public interest, fulfill the county’s planning obligation under Statewide Planning Goal 7, and help to ensure that the county is adequately protecting its people and property from natural hazards.

The amendments revise the county’s governing land use plan or “comprehensive plan,” by repealing and replacing its Chapter 7, “Natural hazards.”  The revised chapter incorporates many new planning maps including new maps for flooding, tsunamis, coastal hazards, liquefaction and landslides. The plan language also notes the many instances where climate change will increase risks associated with natural hazards.

The revised ordinance language specifically addresses liquefaction (when soils lose all stability in earthquakes) and landslides.  The ordinances include new, much-needed regulations that ensure safety for people and property in Curry County. The new language requires disclosure of chronic hazards on property deeds and limits residential development in hazard zones. The ordinance language includes reasonable exceptions to allow for maintenance and improvements to existing structures.

Oregon Shores has long held the position that coastal hazards be honestly addressed in local plans and in disclosure to potential property buyers.  With looming climate change, it is essential that coastal cities and counties begin to incorporate our growing knowledge of these hazards.  We believe that Curry County should approve these amendments, and urge our local members to tell the commissioners so.