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The Impact – Agency Recommends Eliminating Capitol Lake and Restoring Deschutes Estuary

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

The agency in charge of Capitol Lake in Olympia is recommending the site be converted back into an estuary. An Olympia landmark for the last 70 years, Capitol Lake was created with the construction of the 5th avenue dam at the mouth of the Deschutes River in 1951. The lake and the adjoining parks are a popular gathering place for joggers, lunch hour locals and tourists to the state capitol campus. Once host to boat races, swimming, and recreational fishing – Capitol Lake has been closed to all water activities for more than a decade.

 The invasive New Zealand mud snail was detected in 2009. State officials say invasive plants are also a problem. The lake is also slowly filling up with silt washed down the Deschutes River and held in by the dam. 

Capitol Lake stretches from the edge of the Puget Sound in Olympia to the Lower Deschutes Falls in Tumwater.

The lake is managed by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services under a long-term lease by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

According to DES, the underlying goals of the Capitol Lake-Deschutes Estuary long term management project are to find a sustainable plan that improves water quality and ecological function, enhances community use, and addresses sediment management.

With dam removal, the implications for salmon and the broader ecosystem are a key consideration, as well as the impact of all the silt that will enter the Puget Sound at Budd Inlet.

This week we hear from numerous stakeholders about the big changes envisioned for a signature feature of the State Capitol Campus and Olympia’s busy waterfront.

The formal recommendation to pursue estuary restoration was released on October 31.

Interviews this week include:

Project leader for the state, Carrie Martin with the Department of Enterprise Services and Project Manager Tessa Gardner-Brown with the environmental consulting firm Floyd-Snider,

Jack Havens with the Capitol Lake Improvement and Protection Association (CLIPA) 

 Sue Patnude with the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT)

Listen to the podcast here:

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