Secretary of Agriculture Concurs with Plan Amendment

A key milestone in the Plan Amendment process was achieved on October 8 when the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture formally concurred with the Gorge Commission’s Plan Amendment (PA-06-01) authorizing recreation resorts on commercial recreation-zoned former industrial sites. The Secretary of Agriculture’s 46-page concurrence package documents the findings and conclusions supporting consistency with the purposes and standards of the National Scenic Area Act. The next step in the process will occur no later than mid April 2009 by which time Skamania County must incorporate the Amendment language into the County land use code. A lawsuit opposing the Plan Amendment filed last month by Friends of the Gorge is expected to delay action facilitated by the Plan Amendment.

As required by Commission Rule 350-50, the Secretary of Agriculture concurred with the Gorge Commission that:

Conditions in the Scenic Area have significantly changed. The Secretary’s concurrence document cites such changes as the timber industry’s decline, shifts in the gorge economy, site conditions and evolving resort development trends.
The proposed amendment is consistent with the purposes and standards of the Scenic Area Act. Specifically, the Secretary concurred with the Gorge Commission that the Amendment would protect and enhance Scenic Area resources and protect and support the Scenic Area economy consistent with the purposes of the Act. Likewise, the Secretary concluded that the Amendment is consistent with five of the Act’s nine standards and irrelevant to the remaining four.
No practicable alternative to the proposed amendment more consistent with the purposes and standards of the Scenic Area Act exists. The Secretary concurred with the Gorge Commission’s earlier findings that none of the eight possible alternatives that were evaluated were “timely, practicable, or met the objectives set out in the Amendment.”

Finally, the Secretary included the following three suggestions for implementation of the Plan Amendment by Skamania County:

All mitigation and enhancement options will need careful review and consideration by appropriately trained technical specialists;
It will be important to have a mechanism in place to ensure the Amendment requirements are being systematically addressed; and
Monitoring of the resort actions and activities, especially the short-term occupancy requirement (i.e. no more than 45 days occupation out of a 90 day period) should be frequent enough and of sufficient intensity to ensure compliance over the long term. I recommend that Skamania County require the applicant to develop a self-policing system with periodic reports back to Skamania County and the Commission.
To view or download the Secretary of Agriculture’s complete concurrency package, click here.
FAQs Updated following concurrence
Do you have questions about the project? Interested in why a Plan Amendment was needed? Want to know what recreational enhancements are proposed? The answers to these and many other frequently asked questions can be found on our FAQ.
2008-10-19 – Broughton mill plan gains passing mark grade – Proponents of a destination recreation resort at the former Broughton Lumber Company site got a boost at Tuesday’s meeting of the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

2008-09-09 – Foes of gorge resort appeal rule’s adoption – Friends of the Columbia Gorge and 30 other parties have formally appealed a rule adopted by the Columbia River Gorge Commission that could allow a large destination resort on the site of a closed gorge lumber mill.

2008-04-17 – Broughton plan takes big step forward – The proposed Broughton destination resort facility west of Underwood now has some major momentum.

2008-04-10 – Shoutin’ about Broughton – Tuesday’s decision by the Columbia River Gorge Commission to modify the National Scenic Area Management Plan concerning the former Broughton Lumber Company mill site does not mean we will see bulldozers ripping down the old buildings any time soon.

2008-04-09 – Gorge Commission OKs Broughton Resort – STEVENSON — The owners of a defunct Columbia River Gorge lumber mill won the first round Tuesday in what’s likely to be a long legal bout with those who oppose their plan to build a $70 million destination resort on the site near Underwood.