Deschutes Estuary: Who will own and maintain its parts?

Workgroup is proposing how the assets and tasks will divide


The Funding and Governance Work Group of the Capitol Lake-Deschutes Estuary project presented yesterday their recommendations for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as an interlocal agreement that will divide assets and tasks among the different entities involved.

Sara Reich, a consultant from ECONorthwest, presented the work group’s recommendation at the Tumwater City Council’s work session on Tuesday, July 26, and discussed which assets and tasks will be allocated to different entities of the state.

“Some of the details of this are still under consideration and development within the context of the MOU as we move towards signatures there. But in principle, this organization has simplified the long-term governance story,” Reich said.

Under the proposed MOU, separate entities will own and take responsibility for the maintenance of certain assets. Olympia will own the 5th Avenue Bridge, Tumwater will own the South Basin boardwalks, and Washington State will own the Middle Basin boardwalks.

The Port of Olympia will conduct annual bathymetric surveys while the Squaxin Island Tribe will participate in the implementation of the habitat enhancement plan.

There are components of the MOU that will only be active during the duration of the agreement, such as the Port of Olympia being tasked with the contract management for maintenance dredging and Thurston County being tasked with finance management.

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance is also part of the workgroup, but was not allocated any asset or task for now.

The Capitol Lake - Deschutes Estuary project was identified as the likely preferred alternative to restoring the estuary, according to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the  Department of Enterprise Services in June 2021.

In October this year, Enterprise Services will issue the final EIS and will also submit a capital budget request, according to Tessa Gardner-Brown, another project consultant from Floyd Snyder.

“If the legislature appropriates money in response to that request, they can begin three-to-five-year design and permitting effort for estuary restoration… If we were to assume that everything went swimmingly and we got through in three years, which would be tight, the estuary construction could begin in the late 2020s and will take about six to eight years to complete,” Gardner-Brown said.


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  • Tractor1

    Spread the responsibilities around so when the project fails no one will be accountable. And why are we talking about an approximately 10-year construction plan? Enough time has been wasted on this ecological imperative!

    Friday, July 29, 2022 Report this

  • PaulTheOak

    Great to see smart, hard-working local people working out a sustainable future for the Deschutes Estuary. We are finally seeing progress to end the 1950s "Lake Mistake" and return to a healthy vibrant estuary. In a few years, our State Capitol will be looking over restored estuary, not a sick impounded reservoir.

    Friday, July 29, 2022 Report this

  • Bobwubbena

    This is a "sad day". After 35 years of failed maintenance of Capitol Lake by the State DES, and over $6 million and fifteen years of study by the "local study team", they have decided which governmental agency will be responsible for some simple maintenance items---if those boardwalks are ever built. What few people understand is that Capital Lake has become the only "success story in the Puget Sound Water Quality Improvement program during the last ten years. Capital Lake removes most of the nitrogen contaminants from the upper Deschutes River and from the failing septic tanks in the Deschutes Watershed. It also captures the contaminated runoffs from the 1-80 and State/County/City Road systems and provides a natural treatment system with essentially no cost to the taxpayers---the State has chosen to ignore most of the maintenance in the Lake since the mid 1980's. If you think the Estuary will "look better than the Lake"---just look at East Bay near the Port's Marina. That is what the North Basin tidal urban estuary will look like---unless expensive annual maintenance is done. See the results of the State's maintenance program for the Lake. It is good that the State Legislature will be asked to provide the $500 million required for the new Estuary Plan. Amazing things can be planned when someone else will pay for it.

    Friday, July 29, 2022 Report this

  • JoeRogoski

    Spend the money on the current lake. Put this to a vote of county residents. Keep the Lake!!

    Thursday, August 4, 2022 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    It's about time. The Capitol Lake is extremely polluted with high levels of e coli, nitrogen, and contaminants. That stuff isn't just in the water itself, it's in the sediment on the bottom. Taking out the dam will allow the River to flush into the Sound. That's not desirable but had the Deschutes not been dammed into a lake it wouldn't have filled up in the first place. But having seen what the Elbe did after dam removal, after seeing how Beatty Creek restored itself after dam removal, I can tell you that it won't take the River long to set things right. Give her a chance to make things right and Mother will do it without too much help.

    The whole purpose of the Lake was to make a pretty reflecting pool for the Capitol building. That's it. No one cared about the ecological ramifications. Now we will pay the price but in the long run, it was meant to be an estuary and to an estuary it must return.

    Sunday, August 7, 2022 Report this