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Gorge Commission To Adopt Plan Review Issues

Commissioners will adopt a final list of issues for review of the Scenic Act's management plan on Nov. 13 in Stevenson.

Columbia River Gorge Commissioners will adopt a final list of issues for the first-ever review of the Scenic Act's Management Plan when they meet Tuesday, Nov. 13, in Stevenson.

The Commission's regular November meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the Rock Creek Center, 700 SW Rock Creek Drive. A staff presentation on Plan Review issues, followed by public comments and Commission deliberations,will begin at 9:45 a.m.

On Monday, Nov. 5, the Monitoring Committee forwarded to the full Commission a Recommended List of Plan Review Issues that includes 13 major policy measures. The list, compiled last month by Commission and U.S. Forest Service Scenic Area staffs, also included 13 "cleanup" items that address technical issues in the Management Plan.

The Monitoring Committee decided to move several of the cleanup issues to a separate list to ensure that public attention is focused on the policy issues.

The Monitoring Committee also added an issue about how agricultural land is dealt with in the Management Plan. The new issue calls for reviewing provisions in the plan that address agricultural use "to ensure they encourage and do not hamper farm uses."

"We received input from Klickitat County on how important this issue is in the eastern part of the Scenic Area, as well as many individual citizen comments about doing more to protect agricultural land for farming purposes," said Commission Executive Director Martha Bennett.

Removed from the Recommended List was one issue that called for revising and updating the Management Plant's Recreation Development Plan.

Instead, the recommendation suggests the plan for recreational facilities needs to be updated more often than every 10 years.

"We decided to consider the Recreation Development Plan as an "action program" outside of Plan Review," said Bennett. "By dealing with the Recreation Plan separately, it can be more easily updated throughout the next decade."

Another issue, in the Natural Resources category, was narrowed to focus on updating natural resources provisions in the plan to reflect changes in federal and state laws instead of reviewing all standards for level of protection.

"The more focused approach will still address many of the concerns about natural resource protection," Bennett said. "For example, the new federal rules will, no doubt, address buffers zones along streams, which was a concern we heard repeatedly from the public."

After Gorge Commissioners approve a list issues for Plan Review, a detailed work plan will be developed that will address issues on an individual basis. Some of the more complex issues, such as those involving Scenic Resources and Land Use, will take several months for review.

"This is a huge task for the Gorge Commission, with its limited staff and funding," said Bennett. "Because this is the first-ever review of the Management Plan, we're not sure how long it will take to complete. But given the number of policy issues we want to address, Plan Review could take up to two years to complete."

The Recommended List of Priority Issues is available in the Publications section on the Gorge Commission's web site (www.GorgeCommission.org or by calling the commission's office at 493-3323.

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