The Columbia River Gorge Commission approved the formation of a working group that will address the issue of "scenic resources" for the scenic area management plan review.
The approval came during the commission's regular January meeting.
The commission must review the plan every 10 years, as mandated by Congress, to see how well it is working to fulfill the spirit and dual purposes of the 1986 Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act -- protect gorge resources and promote economic development in designated urban areas.
This is the first review ever undertaken since the management plan was adopted.
At the meeting, commissioners were briefed on the plan's current scenic resource policies in the first of a two-part presentation. The second half is scheduled to be given at a special plan review session, Feb. 26 -- location and time are yet to be determined.
The working group will be charged with helping develop recommendations for revision of policies in the management plan that relate to the protection of scenic resources.
With this issue, scenic standards will be reviewed for practicality, clarity and flexibility. Current policies will also be considered in how well they work to achieve scenic protection.
The commission is also looking to eliminate redundancy where possible.
Some major subtopics to be included in reviewing scenic resources include such things as better defining key guidelines and terms ("visual subordinance," for example) and providing more specificity in regards to acceptable colors, landscaping and reflectivity.
The commission also seeks to resolve conflicts with scenic guidelines, such as with fire protection guidelines and landscaping requirements and to balance protection of public views with those from private properties.
The scenic resources working group will be made up of representatives from the each of the six gorge counties, four tribal governments, along with two gorge commissioners and four citizens appointed by the commission.
"We recommended a working group for the scenic resources issue because this complex topic will require people 'to come up to speed' and we can take advantage of the expertise the group develops," said Commission Executive Director Martha Bennett. "We want the kind of creative thinking that can be generated when people with different perspectives share their ideas about an issue.".
In endorsing the working group, Klickitat County's Commission representative Kenn Adcock said its duties needed to be clearly defined and understood.
"It will be strictly advisory, it won't make any decisions, and it will not be a substitute for public hearings," said Adcock.
The commission plans to conduct public hearings as part of the plan review process.
Current plans in the review also include the formation of a working group to help with recommendations on the issue of land use, according to Keith Fredrickson, public outreach coordinator for the commission.
At the commission's next meeting, Feb. 12, at the Discovery Center, commissioners will be introduced to issues involved in land use.
Bennett predicted earlier that scenic resources and land use would each take nearly a year or more to complete.
According to Fredrickson, other policy issues to be reviewed are expected to take far less time with work and research and will not require the assistance of a working group.
For more information on scenic resources or on the management plan review, visit the commission's web site at www.gorgecommission.org or call 509-493-3323.