The Gorge commission on Tuesday, Nov. 13, unanimously adopted a final list of issues to tackle during the first-ever review of the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act.
The list, based on over 1,700 public comments the commission received over the past year in the first phase of the Plan Review process, contains 17 major policy issues and nine "cleanup" items that address specific technical parts of the Management Plan.
Staffs from the Gorge commission and U.S. Forest Service Scenic Area office will now develop a work plan. First draft of the work plan, which the commission will receive at its December meeting, will provide estimates on the amount of time and resources each issue will take, along with spelling out a process for public involvement.
Commission Executive Director Martha Bennett told commissioners that it could take up to 24 months to finish Plan Review given the current list of policy issues, plus another several months for the commission's agency partners to sign off on any revisions to the Management Plan.
"There is some concern among commissioners about the amount of time Plan Review could take," said Bennett after the list was approved. "The commission may reduce the list of issues once we have a work plan in place that defines the time line we're looking at for all the major policy issues."
The commission's approved list included one policy issue added in response to public comment during the month of October. The added issue calls for reviewing provisions in the plan to ensure the rules encourage rather than hamper farm uses.
"A key factor in adding this issue was feedback we received from Klickitat County officials and from many individual citizens on the importance of doing more to protect agricultural lands in the Scenic Area," Bennett said.
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.