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Gorge Commission starts work on plan review of land use

Feb. 12 meeting will be held in The Dalles.

Columbia River Gorge Commissioners will start work on reviewing the section of the National Scenic Area's Management Plan that deals with land use when they meet Feb. 12 at the Discovery Center in The Dalles.

The Feb. 12 meeting will begin at 8 a.m., one hour earlier than usual. A briefing by staff on land use issues involved in Plan Review will begin at 1 p.m.

For Plan Review, the Land Use issue has been divided into four topics: definitions, procedures for rezoning Section 8 (o) lands, specific land use designations, and uses allowed in the Scenic Area.

At the Feb. 12 briefing, commission and U.S. Forest Service Scenic Area staff will propose a process for addressing those topics, including a recommendation for forming a technical advisory group comprised of land use planners appointed by the six Gorge counties and four tribes.

If the commission gives its approval, the group would be responsible for gathering technical information that would then be presented to the general public for comment in a series of workshops.

The briefing also will start the process of clearing up definitions in the Management Plan that have been identified as confusing or difficult to apply.

"Using evaluation criteria the Commission discussed at its December meeting, we will recommend a list of definitions to include during Plan Review. We will also recommend that some definitions be dropped," said Martha Bennett, the commission's executive director."

Those criteria look at such factors as whether an issue has been subject to any appeals, if it has presented implementation problems, if it is a priority for review from other government agencies, or if it has received many comments during the staff's public outreach efforts.

The commission will take public comment on the recommended list of definitions. "We want to make sure we hear from the public if they feel we have left anything important out," said Bennett.

The commission has scheduled another Plan Review session from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Discovery Center that will feature the second part of a presentation on scenic resources. That briefing is continued from the bi-state agency's Jan. 22 meeting.

The commission usually meets once a month, but during Plan Review some extra meetings will be scheduled. The commission is mandated by Congress to review the Management Plan every 10 years to make sure it is fulfilling its main purposes of protecting Scenic Area resources and promoting economic development in urban areas.

Land use and scenic resources are considered two of the most complex and contentious of the 17 issues the commission will address during Plan Review.

Both issues are expected to take several months of study and public input before any recommendations on changes to the Management Plan are issued.

Also on the Feb. 12 agenda is a 9:30 a.m. presentation on Condit Dam by Daniel Harkenrider, area manager for the U.S. Forest Service Scenic Area.

"This presentation has been scheduled because the commission, at its December meeting, expressed an interest in learning the extent of the Forest Service's involvement in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's decisions about Condit Dam," Bennett said.

"Commissioners said they wanted to know what the Forest Service said in consistency reviews in the 1990s that looked at several options for Condit Dam, as well as how the federal agency will respond to a new supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is requiring," she said. "The Gorge Commission will also discuss whether it wants to provide comments to the Forest Service or FERC on the possible removal of the dam."


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