County Commissioners worry about logging effects on Upper Deschutes

DES requests $17 million budget


Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards expressed concerns that a potentially detrimental impact will continue on Capitol Lake-Deschutes Estuary as long as there are logging activities near theupper Deschutes River, which was not included in the Environmental Impact Statement study (EIS).

Sediment effects

Edwards made the statement after the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) received an update on the final EIS for the Capitol Lake-Deschutes Project on Friday, February 3.

Early in the project process, Edwards said, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) asked the state to analyze bothUpper Deschutes and Lower Deschutes.

He claimed the state does not want to look at the Upper Deschutes as part of the analysis.

Edwards explained that many logging activities came into play, including chemical application and sediment from large logging tracks that are not looked at in the EIS.

"We [have] to consider the activity in the Upper Deschutes. As long as there is going to be logging, it will continue to have a potentially detrimental impact on the lake as we move forward," the county commissioner said.

Public Utilities District Commissioner Chris Stearns agreed with Edwards as he pointed out that it would pose a problem in the long run. “The root wads and large balls of sediment have been traveling down some of the tributaries, not only of Deschutes but all of the Olympic rivers that go into the canal for quite some time. Quite a large amount of stuff is working its way downstream over time. The sediment load is eventually going to work its way out.”

The EIS stated that an estimated 35,000 cubic yards of sediment are transported by the Deschutes River into the Capitol Lake Basin each year, shallowing the lake.

Since the construction of the 5th Avenue dam, sediment accumulation has reached up to 13 feet thick in some areas. The water quality was compromised with different plant and animal aquatic invasive species in Capitol Lake, including the invasion of New Zealand mud snail.


Tessa Gardner-Brown, senior environmental planner and associate principal at Floyd Schneider, said the problem statement for the project is focused around the dam – should it be removed or maintained.

Brown explained that the EIS is supposed to evaluate the impact or changes resulting from maintaining or removing the dam.

"So, logging upstream or sediment input or water quality from upstream doesn't change as a result of maintaining or removing the dam. Sediment downstream does, and that's what we need to look at. Maintaining or removing the dam does not move upstream in its impact," she said, adding "but sediment upstream and the continuation of that has to be factored into the baseline analysis."

Final EIS

Ann Larson of the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) and the consultant team were at the TRPC meeting to give an update and discuss the final EIS for the Capitol Lake-Deschutes project.

The DES conducted an environmental review process for the project. It seeks to identify and implement long-term management alternatives to improve water quality and the impaired ecological functions within the Capitol Lake-Deschutes Estuary and adjacent waters.

The Estuary Alternative has been identified as the preferred alternative for long-term waterbody management, restoring tidal flow to conditions similar to the historic Deschutes Estuary. The 5th Avenue Dam would be removed, and a 500-foot opening would be created to reconnect the Capitol Lake Basin with Budd Inlet.

According to Gardner-Brown, the final EIS was released in October 2022.

She said the EIS evaluated the project with 14 environmental disciplines. "We looked at water quality, invasive species, fish and wildlife. We also looked at potential impacts on the built environment related to understanding how closely these two [natural and built environment] can relate in any long-term management scenario."

What comes with Estuary Alternative?

According to Sarah Reich, a consultant from ECONorthwest, the Estuary Alternative would involve the construction of a new bridge at 5th Avenue, which includes vehicles, bike lanes, and sidewalks in each direction.

She said the construction would be done before the demolition of the 5th Avenue dam so that traffic and pedestrians could continue circulation and minimizes the impacts in the non-transportation corridor downtown during construction. The new 5th Avenue Bridge would be constructed just south of the 4th Avenue Bridge, also known as the Olympia Yashiro Friendship Bridge, which was completed in 2004.  

Reich added that Capitol Lake would have a dredging effort to remove more than 500,000 cubic yards of sediment accumulated in the basin since 1986. "This is important because it minimizes the amount of sediment that can move downstream after construction. The sediment will be beneficially used within the basin to create new shoreline habitat."

She mentioned that about 85 acres of shoreline and marsh habitat would be established and planted throughout, creating diverse ecological and visual environments along the shore.

The Estuary Alternative has included maintenance dredging plans in West Bay after construction.

"Dredging is proposed to ensure that working waterfront and recreational boating and activity at the Port of Olympia can be maintained over time," Reich added.

According to Larson, the DES' $17 million budget request was approved in the Governor's budget. She said they are working with the Legislature to get that included in the budget.

If the Legislature appropriates money, they can begin a three-to-five-year design and permitting effort for estuary restoration.

"Once we receive that [budget], our next phase would be to go to the project, which would be construction. During that period, we would go aggressively after federal state and other resources."

Construction would take eight years.

The Funding and Governance Work Group (FGWG) for the project is comprised of the Port of Olympia, LOTT, Squaxin Island Tribe, Thurston County, Tumwater, and Olympia.

Larson said they entered a memorandum of understanding with these local governments and agencies. "We have commitments to move forward with shared funding when we get into sediment monitoring and management, including those dredging for long-term management."


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MaxiDu

    If you are confused, Commissioner Chris Stearns is a PUD commissioner, not a county commissioner.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    And isn't Amy Harding also a member of the Port of Olympia?

    As for sedimentation. If you've seen the Elwha river, (on the north edge of the Olympic Peninsula) after the dams were removed, it doesn't take the river at all long to move sediment. That river moved an awful lot of gravel and sediment without needing man's help in the way of dredging. It built a brand new beach on the coastline, which provided a lot of habitat for clams, beach vegetation, etc.

    I imagine that in an enclosed area such as that seen in the Capitol Lake, dredging will probably be needed, but only to keep it from filling up the marina.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this

  • Bobwubbena

    So much disinformation, one might think the DES and Floyd Snyder are part of the Donald Trump Team of "disinformation." An independent group of professionals with a wide range of expertise have been tracking the "poorly developed and poorly documented facts to support the Estuary option" to manage the State's Capitol Lake. The State has failed to meet their responsibilities as outlined in the 1950/60's in managing the urban tidal estuary called Capital Lake. They last completed a "maintenance action" in the 1980's and now blame their failure on the natural conditions of the Deschutes Watershed and the Lake. They fail to interpret the Department of Ecology and County Health monitoring data (all a matter of public record) that show the natural treatment that occurs by the existing Lake's current arrangement to be very protective of water quality in Budd Inlet. Instead, they are allowing a small group of "no dam is a good dam" and a few zealous others to railroad a $50 million project of maintenance into a $500 million "boondoggle" that will forever destroy a success for the Olympia Waterfront and one that will cost future taxpayers will forever pay for a "failed decision by the City Council and the DES". Not a good story for the future of the City of Olympia or the future of Puget Sound' Don't believe me, look at the facts and ask difficult questions. Most of the DES public answers do not represent reality. Ask tough questions. Ask for answers in writing. This will allow our State Legislators to do some independent research and require the DES (and the consultant) to be more truthful with their "flippant answers. " Our independent team have raised the questions for the last ten years. --The States Response---don't confuse the public with the facts, we have our mind made up and we need to pay the piper.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this

  • Olywelcomesall

    The upper Deschutes Watershed has already been assessed and logging operations reviewed for exactly what Commissioner Edwards and PUD Commissioner Stearns are asking. DES appropriately focused on the issues around impacts from the 5th Avenue dam on the Deschutes/Budd estuary. In its overview of the watershed, the DES EIS provided an excellent description of how the upper watershed affects the lower basin and contributes to sediment loading. Nice work by the DES team on this EIS.

    Bob Wubbena is wrong about his groups "independent" review. They are not independent. Bob is an owner of a Fiddlehead Marina, thus has a direct financial interest in keeping the dam in place as it reduces sediment moving into the bay. Nearly all the information from the reviews of his group have been found with key data gaps and misinterpretations that favor keeping the dam in place. Their questions were asked and answered by the DES EIS.

    Saturday, February 11 Report this