The following have been identified as "Critical Areas" within the City of Washougal:
- Critical Aquifer Recharge areas
- Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas
- Frequently flooded areas
- Geologically hazardous areas
Critical areas are valuable and fragile natural resources with significant development constraints that, in their natural state, provide many valuable social and ecological functions. The attendant buffers of critical areas are essential to the maintenance and protection of the functions and value of important critical areas. The loss of social and ecological functions provided by critical areas, especially wetlands, riparian zones and fish and wildlife habitat, results in a detriment to public safety and welfare.
Critical areas help to relieve the burdens on the people of Washougal which urban development can create including congestion, noise and odors, air pollution, and water quality degradation. Critical areas can filter and clean surface waters, refresh the air we breathe, and provide open space areas that help add variety and texture to the urban landscape. They provide:
- Open space corridors separating and defining developed areas within the city
- Views which enhance property values and quality of life in developed neighborhoods
- Educational opportunities for the citizens of Washougal
- Accessible areas for residents to stroll, hike and enjoy Washougal's valuable natural features
Conservation of critical areas has associated natural resource benefits, including improved air and water quality, maintenance of fish and wildlife habitat, decreased erosion and sedimentation of streams, absorption of pollutants and preservation of rare plant and animal species.
The intent of these regulations is, at a minimum, to achieve no net loss of wetlands, floodplains, and fish and wildlife habitat areas and to avoid the degradation or loss of aquifer recharge/wellhead protection areas. Where avoidance is not practical, the intent is to minimize the environmental impacts of development within and adjacent to critical areas. The regulations promote a balance between private property rights, urban level development and public use of critical areas, consistent with the maintenance of their natural appearance and functional values.
Compliance with the Washougal critical areas ordinance may reduce the need to require additional studies to ensure compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process and other applicable state or federal environmental regulations.
All developments proposed within any of the critical areas are required to comply with the regulations identified for each critical area in Washougal Municipal Code Chapter 16.04.