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Thurston County, Washington

Public Works

Human in a kayak in a lake

The Healthy Lakes Program improves and protects water quality in the many lakes of Thurston County. Through education on lakefront living and technical assistance, Thurston County engages those who live near or enjoy lakes to become active stewards of their lakes, watersheds and environment. We strive to work with residents with the goal of maintaining ecosystem integrity and improving water quality by developing management strategies using the best available science and resources.

The natural aging process, urbanization and climate change can all contribute to diminishing water quality in lakes. Decreases in water quality can significantly impact fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and property values. To support stewardship practices that minimize the impact to water quality, the Thurston County Healthy Lakes Program exists to help people understand the precious lake ecosystems they enjoy, as well as learn about and engage in best management practices for preserving lakes as a resource. In partnership with other Thurston County programs and State agencies, the Healthy Lakes Program develops management plans for and conducts water quality and environmental testing in many of Thurston County's lakes.

Thurston County has specific regulations regarding boating operations and water safety on lakes. Below are key provisions of Chapter 16.04.


  • Speeds over 5 mph are allowed only from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. or official sunset, whichever comes first.
  • The maximum speed limit is 45 mph in the open basins.
  • After sunset, all crafts must use proper running lights.
  • Crafts operating over 5 mph must be at least 200 feet off the shoreline. This must be observed because swimmers and nonmotorized craft tend to gather within the 200-foot safety zone. This rule also reduces the impact of wakes upon shore banks.Thurston County has specific regulations regarding boating operations and water safety on lakes.
  • Crafts operating over 5 mph, including personal watercraft or "jet skis," must also remain at least 100 feet away from all other craft and persons.
  • All watercraft must travel in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • All water skiers must have at least three people: a driver, an observer, and a skier. The observer is required to watch the skier at all times and to use a red or orange flag to signal when a skier is down in the water. All water skiers are required to wear an approved flotation device.
  • Personal flotation devices must be on-board all watercraft, with one device required for each person and easily accessible. Children 12 years old and younger must wear a personal flotation device at all times if traveling on a vessel that is shorter than 19 feet.
  • You must be at least 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft legally.
  • Must carry a Washington State Boater Education card.
  • All personal watercraft (or "jet ski") operators must wear an approved flotation device.
  • It is illegal to operate any craft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Don't forget to check your boat for Eurasian Watermilfoil!  Click here for more information from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Thurston County Public Health posts algae advisories on its Water Recreation page.

More information about water quality monitoring can be found on the Thurston County Public Health Water Quality Monitoring webpage.

​Guidelines for county operations staff who use pest and vegetation control on county-owned property and rights of way.

Water Quality Data from the Storm & Surface Water Utility is available on the Thurston County Rainfall and Water Levels webpage.

Is Forming a Lake Group Right for My Lake?

There are many things individual lake residents and users can do to protect Thurston County’s lakes. Often, a specific concern or overall local community commitment to a lake may inspire the organization of a lake group to address the concern and develop a long-term management strategy. The benefits of organizing can include the following:

  • A more consistent funding source for lake improvement activities
  • The development of long-term management plans
  • Community awareness of lake issues
  • An improved communication network
  • Members of approved lake groups may be eligible for reductions in their stormwater utility rates

Informational Meetings

Watch the latest informational meetings about lake groups including questions and answers from community members.

Which Type of Lake Group Fits My Community's Needs?

People who live on or near lake shores enjoy many benefits which may include beautiful scenery, wildlife observation and recreational opportunities. Because activities that occur in proximity to a lake can have both short and long-term negative effects on the health of the lake, residents also share responsibilities which individuals may be difficult to address as individuals. Because of this, many communities may be inspired by a sense of ownership and personal commitment to consider working with each other to address lake issues and protect water quality. There are several organizational structures communities can consider when choosing to organize. Four types of structures available to lake property owners include:

A lake association, typically organized as a registered non-profit organization, is a volunteer group consisting of interested property owners. There are more than 100 lake associations in Washington State. This can be an appropriate organization for improving communication, fostering stewardship and forming consensus on common goals and objectives. Lake association details include:

  • Good structure for well-organized communities
  • Typically formed as a non-profit and funded through membership dues
  • Activities are managed by volunteers, contractors or consultants
  • Members assume liability of activities
  • Only owners who choose to contribute pay for activities
  • Flexible and voluntary
  • Not bound by county policy

A homeowner association is typically created when a subdivision is built. The covenants on the recorded deed require each landowner to join the association and pay dues. Homeowner association details include:

  • Permanent organization with dedicated funding
  • Actions dependent upon an active association board
  • May not be representative of the entire lake

Lake Management Districts (LMDs) operate under the authority of the county, which assumes all risk related to the activities conducted. An advisory committee comprised of community representatives is maintained and coordinated by the County to facilitate engagement and communication with residents included in LMD boundaries. The process for forming an LMD is established under RCW 36.61, which allows for the assessment of property to finance lake management activities. Private and public lake front property, upland lots with access to the lake, and any other property within the watershed which benefits from management activities can be included. Formation of an LMD can be initiated through a valid petition from the community, or by the county initiating the formation of an LMD independently. The process includes a public hearing and vote by affected property owners. LMDs typically take 8-10 months, or longer, to form and can operate for a period of up to ten years. 

LMD Frequently Asked Questions

LMD Administrative Rules

LMD details include:

  • Forms a county administered program
  • County staff serve as program administrators and subject matter experts
  • County assumes liability of approved activities
  • County manages all permits
  • Once formed, all property owners within the LMD pay annual fees, unless exempt by category
  • Subject to all applicable county policies
  • Costs of administration provided by the county are supported by LMD rates
  • Advisory committees are managed by county staff and must apply to applicable policies and laws (Open Public Meeting Act, County Communication Plan, etc.)
  • County Treasurer's Office collects annual rates and charges

A Special District is a special form of government that provides diking, drainage, flood control facilities and services; and engages in lake or river restoration, aquatic plant control, and water quality enhancement activities to property owners within the district boundaries. The process for forming a Special District is established under RCW 85.38. While the formation process for a Special District is similar to that of a Lake Management District, the management of the entity is different. Upon formation of a Special District, the Board of County Commissioners is responsible for appointing an initial governing board of three individuals. Thereafter, the Special District property owners elect the governing board, which is tasked with managing the affairs of the district. Special Districts typically take 9-18 months to form and can operate indefinitely. Special District details include:

  • Self-governing by an elected governing board
  • Unlimited lifetime
  • Activities managed by volunteers, contractors or consultants
  • Special District assumes liability of activities
  • Special District manages permits
  • Once formed, all property owners within the Special District pay annual fees, unless in by exempt category
  • Not bound to county policies
  • County Treasurer's Office collects annual rates and charges

Long Lake Management District Steering Committee

This is a volunteer resident advisory committee directs the activities of the Long Lake Management District, with staff support from a lake specialist at Thurston County.
Meetings are held:

  • 4th Tuesday of each month
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey, WA 98503

Lake Lawrence Management District Steering Committee

The Lake Lawrence Management District performs a wide range of functions. These include harvesting aquatic weeds, implementing an "integrated pest management plan," and encouraging boater safety.
Meetings are held:

  • 4th Tuesday of each month
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey, WA 98503
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Lake Lawrence West Community Club Lower Lodge
  • All Lake Lawrence residents are invited, and encouraged, to attend

The Thurston County Healthy Lakes Program is available to answer questions you may have about forming a lake group. Staff can assist by sharing technical expertise, speaking to your community or group, or by providing training for healthy lake management.

Technical Assistance & General Information: (360) 786-5830

Resolution 16187 Findings and Determination

Petition to Establish a Lake Management District

Proposed Boundary Map

Proposed Parcels Assessment

July 26, 2022 Public Hearing Notice

January 10, 2023 Public Hearing Notice

Resolution of Intention

PLMD Estimated Timeline Updated 11.16.22

Ordinance Forming PLMD No. 23

Pattison Lake Community

The vote count for the proposed Pattison LMD has been finalized. Preliminary results are as follows:

  • 144 valid ballots were YES, for a total weighted count of 71,334.
  • 113 valid ballots were NO, for a total weighted count of 26,067.
  • Per RCW, a simple majority of the weighted vote count keeps the LMD process forward.
  • An Ordinance creating PLMD was passed by the Board of County Commissioners on November 22, 2022.