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Gorge Commission scopes out 10-year plan at HR meeting

The Columbia River Gorge Commission will ask for public input on the agency’s overarching management plan at a series of meetings held throughout the Gorge in early 2017.

A meeting at Hampton Inn in Hood River kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The Gorge Commission will also hold public events on Jan. 17 in The Dalles, at Fort Dalles Readiness Center, and Jan. 31 at North Bonneville, Wash., at Bonneville Event Center.

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Krystyna U. Wolniakowski

The “early scoping sessions,” according to a news release by Gorge Commission staff, will share particulars of the National Scenic Area Management Plan and allow residents to “tell us what you think is working or needs improvement” and “engage in a community dialog about what we should consider for revision.”

The plan review and revision is slated to continue through 2019, when the agency adopts the new document.

The 13-member Gorge Commission oversees land use and development policy in the six-county Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon and Washington. They have a dual charge: preserving natural resources while encouraging economic growth in Gorge towns.

Every 10 years, Congress requires the commission to update its management plan, which covers rules from land use and resource protection to development and partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and four Columbia River treaty tribes.

The Gorge Commissions breaks the document into four parts:

  • Goals, objectives, policies, and guidelines for resource protection and enhancement of scenic, cultural, natural and recreation resources.
  • Land use designations and “applicable policies.”
  • An action program for recreation, economic development, resource enhancement, interpretation, and education.
  • Roles and engagement between the Gorge Commission, Forest Service, and treaty tribes.

Krystyna Wolniakowski, Gorge Commission executive director, explained at a November county board meeting, “We decided we wanted to dive into the management review process … because it’s pretty urgent. Most of that language in the management plan is about 30 years old.”

The update will address issues brought up by the public in comments in recent years, she said, and reflect changes to the region since the 1980s — through the local boom of tourism and industry.

Wolniakowski noted that the end result will be “a much more usable document” than the three-ring binder the current plan occupies, incorporating a more accessible electronic version.

The plan was touched up in 2004, she said, but the agency’s staffing levels have been reduced since then. The project is two years behind schedule, as directed by the National Scenic Area Act, which created the commission.

The bi-state agency has sought a return to higher levels of funding from pre-Recession years, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown took action in early December toward that vision. Brown proposed a 21 percent budget increase from Oregon in the 2017-2019 biennium.

Public scoping meetings concerning the management plan will be held January through March throughout the Scenic Area.

Next summer, the commission will pool together what they’ve learned, work with the Forest Service, and start crafting goals and policy proposals at the staff level. Then, the commission will hold a series of roundtable workshops. The final step in revising the management plan is the commission’s final approval.

“The goal is to complete the ‘Gorge 2020’ Management Plan’ by June 2019,” a Gorge Commission fact sheet explains.

To submit comments on the plan review, email planreview@gorgecommission. org, or visit www.gorge

commission.org/manage ment-plan/plan. The public can provide oral comments at commission meetings or workshops.

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