OLYMPIA — In a significant victory for coastal empowerment and job creation, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed a law creating a new Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council.

Several years in the making, this effort to give coastal residents a direct say in key maritime issues was vetoed in 2012 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire despite overwhelming support in the Legislature. In the midst of eliminating a number of citizen boards, Gregoire questioned the law’s insistence that the Department of Ecology and other agencies coordinate regulations with a stakeholder group.

The new legislation is similar to the law rejected by Gregoire. It passed 40 to 9 in the state Senate and 82-14 in the House. It will be coordinated by the governor’s office. In addition to coastal citizens, it will include representation by the governor’s staff and natural resource agencies.

In essence, representatives of traditional outer coastal industries perceive a need to exert more influence over bureaucratic initiatives that originate in Olympia with relatively little citizen input. This is particularly the case in light of “marine spatial planning,” an ongoing process that is a kind of zoning of the state’s offshore waters and shelf. The drive to dedicate areas to wave or tidal energy production is viewed as one source of potential conflict.

“In the end the bill passed; sold as a coastal jobs bill that allowed the coast to sit at the table with agencies and collaborate on the future of the coastal jobs,” Ilwaco crab fleet leader Dale Beasley said. “Our basic goal, associated with Washington Coastal Marine Spatial Planning, will be to ‘Protect and Preserve Existing Sustainable Uses’ — jobs of all kinds, recreation, commerce, freedom of navigation, marine ecosystems, and overall aesthetics for the coast from Cathlamet to Neah Bay.”

Key to the law’s passage was support from the Coalition of Coastal Fisheries, the Willapa Bay Oyster Growers, Pacific County Marine Resources Committee and county commissioners from Pacific, Grays Harbor and Wahkiakum counties.

Although the council will sit in only an “advisory” role, disagreements over coastal management issues will be mediated at the council table “and not behind some closed door in Olympia or worse, in D.C.,” Beasley said. “This is a big, big item and turn of events that will at least make government decisions much, much more transparent. I am sure a lot of things will happen we may not care for, but at least we will have an opportunity to modify the end result; something out of reach with the present situation.”

“The passage of this bill gives the council a little more clout and ensures that the opinions of fishermen and shellfish growers, hotel and bed and breakfast owners and port and shipping interests will help shape the future of Washington’s coastline,” Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said.

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