OLYMPIA – It’s been three years since an advisory committee recommended on a split vote that the state revert the 250-acre manmade Capitol Lake back to the Deschutes River estuary.
Very little has happened since to maintain the lake or create the estuary. Without money or a political and community consensus on how to proceed, Capitol Lake keeps filling up with sediment carried down the Deschutes River, an estimated 100,000 cubic yards since 2009, enough to fill 10,000 dump trucks.
The state Department of Enterprise Services, which manages the lake as part of the state Capitol Campus, is inching forward on a potential small scale dredging project, the first in 25 years.
The state agency is close to awarding a contract to spend $200,000 allotted by the 2011 state Legislature to assess what permits and costs would be associated with a minor dredging project.
But there’s been no decision yet whether to seek additional state money for Capitol Lake, or Deschutes estuary, improvement projects in the 2013-15 state budget, said Carrie Martin, an asset manager with Enterprise Services.
“Everybody’s so afraid to make a move,” said Dave Peeler, a former state Department of Ecology water quality manager and one of the founders of the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team.
Peeler suggested that the lake-estuary debate will continue to fester, unless various stakeholders, including state and local elected officials, the Squaxin Island Tribe, lower Budd Inlet marine owners, community leaders, environmental groups and others, can agree on a plan to manage sediment stockpiled in the lake and future sediment that could end up in lower Budd Inlet if the Fifth Avenue Dam were removed.
The lack of a sediment management strategy is starting to have major consequences in lower Budd Inlet, lower Budd Inlet marina owners said in a letter to Enterprise Services director Joyce Turner earlier this year.
“The recreational and commercial boating activity in the entire lower Budd Inlet will soon be impacted and the marinas will lose their economic ability to support a boating waterfront,” the letter said.
More recently, the Capitol Lake Improvement and Protection Association urged the state agency to step up maintenance of the Fifth Avenue Dam and do more to control stormwater entering the lake from Deschutes Parkway discharge pipes.
Enterprise Services has identified, but not yet funded, a $3 million project to combat saltwater corrosion and repair and seal concrete at the dam.
Lake supporters suffered a setback recently when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dropped the Deschutes estuary project from a list of possible Puget Sound nearshore improvement projects targeted for federal funding.
The Corps and its team of federal and state scientists concluded that the Deschutes estuary project was not cost effective when it trimmed the project list from 36 to 15, said Curtis Tanner, project manager for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership.