Estuaries are an invaluable part of a coastal ecosystem where plant and animal species indigenous to fresh and salt waters mix. Since 1971, the United States government has encouraged states to study and protect coastal resources. Oregon is one of those states and has almost 600 kilometers of coast, an area with only about 6% of the state’s population. Oregon also has a statewide planning program, which establishes binding policies, called “goals,” for local governments (cities and counties) to carry out. The constellation of available federal funds, a state and local desire to protect coastal resources, and a mechanism to do so resulted in a complex, though effective, program to assure that estuaries, shorelands, beaches and dunes and ocean resources were subject to state policy making, planning and regulation. The paper reviews the history and content of Goal 16, Estuarine Resources. Indeed, given the general lack of resources available to local governments on the Oregon Coast and the general antipathy to regulation, it was remarkable that these smaller local governments agreed to undertake this complex project. The coastal goals, including Goal 16, were adopted in 1977, setting off a 10-year process of draft inventories, plans and regulations which culminated in 1986 when the last of the 29 cities and 7 counties were “acknowledged” as complying with all the goals. Under a broad goal direction to protect estuarine resources and allow development only when appropriate, Oregon has classified 22 “major“ estuaries, which were further classified to be “natural,” “conservation” or “development” (each classification allowing a greater degree of human activity) and “minor” estuaries, which were generally to be left undisturbed. Each of the estuaries were further classified into “management units” to allow activities that did not exceed the capacity of its overall classification Local governments then adopted plans and implementing regulations to assure that land uses were consistent with these classifications and the policies of the goal. In addition to these policies, the goal contains a number of specific directions for land use, including avoidance of dredging, filling and fill material disposal in estuaries if other alternatives are available, requiring impact analyses in local plans and permitting, planning and permit coordination with applicable federal, state and local public agencies, avoidance of duplicate regulation and the like. The Oregon story may be helpful to others facing similar planning and regulatory complexities.
Edward J. Sullivan,
Protecting Oregon's Estuaries,
Ocean & Coastal L.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/oclj/vol23/iss2/5