Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are "Critical Areas"?
  2. Why is it important to protect Critical Areas?
  3. Why do we need to update our existing Critical Areas Ordinance?
  4. What is "Best Available Science"?
  5. Are critical area buffers a taking of private property?
  6. Could updating the Critical Areas Ordinance require me to tear down my existing structures?
  7. How can I participate in the update process?
  8. How Long will this process take?
  9. Where can I learn more?

1. What are "Critical Areas"?

Critical Areas are identified in the Growth Management Act (GMA) as:

  • Wetlands
  • Critical aquifer recharge areas
  • Frequently flooded areas
  • Geologically hazardous areas
  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas

The GMA requires counties to have regulations in place to protect these areas.

2. Why is it important to protect Critical Areas?

Protecting critical areas helps preserve the natural resources that make Kittitas County a healthy place to live. Critical areas include aquifers that supply drinking water, streams that support fish populations, wildlife habitat that fosters a diversity of living organisms, and an ecosystem that supports our community. Critical areas also support resource industries that contribute to our local economy. Protection of Critical area also safeguards people from physical and financial harm caused by natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and mudslides.

3. Why do we need to update our existing Critical Areas Ordinance?

Updating our Critical Areas Ordinance is a requirement of the Growth Management Act (GMA). The goal is to protect the most sensitive areas of the environment from impacts of future development, while balancing that protection with other county regulations and property rights. Functions and values provided by Critical Areas include water quality protection and enhancement; food chain support; fish and wildlife habitat; flood storage, conveyance, and attenuation; ground water recharge and discharge; erosion control; protection from natural hazards; and recreation.

4. What is "Best Available Science"?

Best Available Science (BAS) means current scientific information derived from research, monitoring, inventory, survey, modeling, assessment, synthesis, and expert opinion that is logical and reasonable. BAS is based on quantitative analysis and is reviewed by experts to be used in establishing Critical Areas Ordinances.

5. Are critical area buffers a taking of private property?

No. The U.S. Constitution allows state and local governments to limit private property activities provided it's for a legitimate public benefit and they do not deprive the landowner of all reasonable use of the property. In most cases, buffers do not deprive landowners of all reasonable use of their property. In those limited instances where the buffer precludes or significantly interferes with a reasonable use, the property owner may obtain a variance.

6. Will the new regulations require me to tear down my existing structures?

No. The updated Critical Areas Ordinance will only apply to development occurring after adoption. There are no retroactive Critical Area requirements.

7. How can I participate in the update process?

Kittitas County welcomes early and continuous public participation in the Critical Areas Ordinance update process. Throughout the process there will be opportunities to engage in review and discussion of the CAO update. Consider attending a meeting or submitting written comments.

8. How long will this process take?

Kittitas County hopes to update the Critical Areas Ordinance by September of 2015. The link below contains a graphic depiction of the process and timeline.

CAO Update Timeline

9. Where can I learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about critical areas and the update process, the following links may be helpful: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/grndwtr/cara/gma.html