Grays Harbor County Critical Areas Ordinance Update

The 2018 Periodic Update to the Grays Harbor County Critical Areas Protection Ordinance was adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on September 3, 2019. (Ord. 448)

Notice of Hearing

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN by the Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners pursuant to Chapter 36.70A RCW, that a public hearing will be held on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, at the hour of 1:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter can be heard in the Commissioners Meeting Room, Administration Building, Montesano, Washington.  The purpose of the public hearing is to consider verbal and written testimony in support of or in opposition to adoption of an ordinance repealing and replacing chapter 18.06 critical areas regulations of Title 18 of the Grays Harbor County Code.

Notice of Hearing - Critical Areas Ordinance
Draft Ordinance

Notice of Hearing - Updated Definitions
Draft Ordinance

The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires local governments to protect five types of critical areas: fish and wildlife habitat areas, wetlands, critical aquifer recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, and geologically hazardous areas (such as bluffs). The Grays Harbor County’s Critical Areas Ordinance is a response to GMA requirements  – regulating how development and redevelopment can safely occur on lands that contain critical areas.

2018 Update to the Critical Areas Ordinance

The Growth Management Act requires all counties to update GMA documents on a periodic basis. Counties and cities must be in compliance with the requirements of the GMA, including the periodic update requirements, to be eligible for grants and loans from certain state infrastructure programs. Grays Harbor County is in the process of updating the critical areas regulations adopted in 2012.  Grays Harbor County's deadline is June 30, 2018.  Note that the time required to settle the lawsuit associated with the 2010 CAO did not extend the date for the periodic update. 

The goal of the update is to achieve the following:

  • Make organization more coherent, to improve flow;
  • Add useful definitions;
  • Update pertinent Best Available Science where those citations have changed; and,
  • Conform more closely to accepted Model Ordinance language to have consistency with other jurisdictions which may encourage a wider range of consultants to offer their services in GHC.  More consultants willing to practice here may translate to better Special Studies and lower cost to landowners.

Any person desiring to express their views in writing, request additional information, or be notified of the action taken on this update should contact the Grays Harbor County Planning Division, Attn. CAO UPDATE, 100 W. Broadway, Ste. 31, Montesano, WA 98563 or by email to

Past Drafts

Critical Area Protection Ordinance Update - Updated Final Draft version January 14, 2019 (Amended to add Sections 13.5 &13.6 and to add Section 63).

Critical Area Protection Ordinance Update - Draft Final version (includes July 2018 Department of Ecology wetland recommendations)

Critical Area Protection Ordinance Update- Draft version November 7, 2017

Critical Area Protection Ordinance (current)

Definitions - Draft

Workshop Presentation