Policy, science, economics and culture at a crossroads: restoring the Deschutes River estuary

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Peeler, Dave; Patnude, Sue; Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)
Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.
Fresh Water Studies; Life Sciences; Marine Biology; Natural Resources and Conservation; Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology
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The potential restoration of the Deschutes Estuary in South Puget Sound has raised a unique set of disparate policy, scientific, economic and cultural interests and perspectives. The Deschutes River Estuary historically provided habitat for an abundance of shellfish and a large estuarine area for migrating salmonids at the southern extreme of Puget Sound. In 1951 the State constructed a dam across the estuary, totally transforming the estuary and creating Capitol Lake, a freshwater body. The dam also provided a transportation route to West Olympia across Budd Inlet. Creation of the lake also transformed the habitat, hydrology and water quality of the area. The lake and much of its adjacent lands are now part of Washington State's Capitol Campus, and are managed by the WA Dept. of Enterprise Services. After completing a report to the Legislature in December 2016, DES requested funds for an EIS. Almost seventy years after dam construction the habitat is degraded, water quality standards are being violated, and invasive species are rampant in the lake. Sediments coming down the Deschutes River have filled in much of the lake, raising water temperatures. Seals devour returning salmon at the entrance to the fish ladder in the dam. The Dept. of Ecology has been developing controversial and expensive water cleanup plans (TMDLs) for the Deschutes River and Budd Inlet as required by the federal Clean Water Act. Their technical studies have shown that the dam and lake are the largest contributors to poor water quality in Budd Inlet. According to Ecology’s studies, water quality standards in Budd Inlet cannot be met without removing the dam. In addition to other local point and nonpoint pollution sources, the study also implicates sources of pollution to the north of Budd Inlet, including wastewater treatment plants that discharge directly to Puget Sound waters. Players in this issue include Ecology, WDNR, WDES, State Legislature, Governor’s Office, Squaxin Indian Tribe, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, LOTT, Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, City of Tumwater, Thurston County, Olympia Yacht Club, local marinas, local environmental groups and others.