Thurston County government received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study regulatory ways to protect and improve water quality in the Deschutes River watershed. The County formed a work group with the Squaxin Island Tribe; cities of Olympia, Rainier, and Tumwater; and the Thurston Regional Planning Council. The group detailed existing conditions; studied effects of various land management scenarios on water quality; presented proposals to public and stakeholder groups, and incorporated the input received; and finally recommended land management and regulatory strategies for the watershed. Their recommendations were approved in Resolution 15374 (PDF) by Thurston's Board of County Commissioners on November 29, 2016.
Study dates 2015-2016
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The Deschutes River is one of the largest streams in Thurston County. It flows more than 57 miles from its forested headwaters to Puget Sound. The watershed that drains into the river includes a variety of land uses, including timberand agricultural lands, as well as developed areas within the cities ofOlympia and Tumwater. While the Deschutes River currently supports avariety of wildlife habitat and recreational uses, it also suffers from ongoing pollution concerns. The river is listed under the federal Clean Water Act for dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform, temperature, pH, andfine sediment, and is the subject of a state-coordinated cleanup plan. Nutrient levels in the Deschutes contribute to pollution issues in Capitol Lake, and it is considered a major contributor to low dissolved oxygen levels in Budd Inlet. Anticipated future development in the watershed could exacerbate waterquality issues.
A stakeholder group informed the development of alternative future scenarios, and considered the impactsof different land use management options on water quality and other factors in the watershed. The project team presented the alternative future scenarios and recommended land use management options from the stakeholder workgroup at a community workshop on June 30, 2016 and incorporated input from the public and residents of the watershed in the final recommendations.