Thurston County government received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study ways to translate data about local waters into land use planning policies. The project evaluated current conditions in areas of Totten, Eld, Budd/Deschutes, Henderson, and Nisqually Reach watersheds. It also conducted hydrological modeling of various management practices to identifiy what worked best for each water area. Finally, the group recommended next steps for continued work to Thurston's Board of County Commissioners.
Date of Grant 2013
Regulatory Reasons for the Study The Washington State Legislature's Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70a.020) requires Counties to plan for population growth in a way that preserves and protects area waters, natural resources and Puget Sound.
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Recommendations for Future Basin Studies This study recommended a further study of three basins that represent a range of current ecological conditions. The Black Lake which relects the impacts of rural neighborhoods, McLane Creek which reflects impacts from a mostly undeveloped forest area, and Woodard Creek which reflects impacts from a commercial/industrial area near densely populated neighborhoods.
Thurston County collaborated with Thurston Regional Planning Council on this project.
County codes or regulations affected by this project
The results of this study may be applied to existing development regulations, transfer or purchase of development rights, low impact development, or long-term protection of sensitive lands.
According to population studies, Thurston County is one of the fastest growing regions in Washington State. The area is expecting about 140,000 new people by 2040.
This growth will bring economic benefit to the unincorporated areas of Thurston County which are served by the County government. It will also bring demand for new homes and new County roads and services. Growth in a very rainy place like Thurston County affects the ability of undeveloped land to provide valuable services. Heavy rains drain into areas called wetlands, which reduces flooding. Soils of undeveloped land filter runoff, helping clean it as it seeps into drinking water aquifers (most Thurston County residents drink untreated water from local aquifers). Development in rural areas means the land no longer provides these free services. It also means more pollution gets caught in rainwater runoff as it flows into in area waters, which may make them unsafe for people and pets to play in, fish from and drink.
Thurston County government wants to meet the requirements of the State Legislature's Growth Management Act by accommodating growth in a way that preserves the health of area waters and the quality of life for current and future residents. That is the goal of this project: To understand where the threats to our natural resources are greatest, and to identify ways to prevent the degradation of those resources, preserving them for future generations.