The Deadline to Submit Applications Requiring On-Site Gopher Reviews is Next Friday
OLYMPIA – The deadline for citizens to submit a project application requiring the on-site gopher review screening process is 4:00 p.m. next Friday, September 13. This date takes into consideration the review season ending on October 31 and the requirement of two site-visits, 30 days apart. County staff will schedule site reviews for new permit applicants until the schedule is filled. Applications submitted after the deadline are not guaranteed an on-site review in 2019.
If applicants used a consultant for the review, they must submit an application and the consultant’s report by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 18. This allows staff time to review and field verify the report, if necessary, before the review window closes on October 31, 2019.
The Board of County Commissioners has taken steps to address the Mazama pocket gopher review process, including submitting a draft of the Habitat Conservation Plan to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS). Each year, the Board has implemented key changes to the gopher review process resulting in a more streamlined and efficient reviews, including the option for applicants to hire their own qualified consultants to conduct reviews.
The application deadline does not apply to all building permit applicants. Gopher reviews only apply to building permit applicants who plan to build on properties mapped with gopher soils and are within the county’s permit jurisdiction. In a typical year that’s about 10 percent of the county’s 4,000 total applications.
Why the County conducts gopher reviews
Thurston County is home to the threatened Mazama pocket gopher species. The federal Endangered Species Act protects these animals and their habitat. That means property owners who build on protected habitat may have federal requirements to address before they break ground. The county adopted a gopher review process to help permit applicants deal with the federal listing. Without the review process, every county permit applicant with a building project on a gopher soil would have to work directly with USFWS. This would increase the cost significantly and add an estimated 24 to 36 months to the process.