Capitol Lake: Black Hills Audubon Signs
Letter of Support for Deschutes Estuary Restoration
by Donna Nickerson
Black Hills Audubon has been involved in the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management
Program (CLAMP) as a public interest group since CLAMPís early days. We have
continued to learn about the possibilities for, and difficulties of, restoring
the Deschutes estuary through review of technical reports, attendance at
steering committee deliberations, participation in focus group sessions, and
various public dialogues.
Through this long and informative process, we have grown increasingly convinced
that restoring the Deschutes River to an estuary is the best alternative. We
presented our comment letter supporting this alternative to the Steering
Committee staff representative on July 1, 2009.
Estuary Alternative or Managed Lake Alternative?
Findings from numerous CLAMP studies indicate that the estuary alternative would
be a long-term, low-cost choice that would generate a high amount of public
benefit in terms of wildlife, recreation, ecological services, and economic
benefits. By contrast, the managed lake alternative (which may be more popular
with the public at this point) represents a 70% higher total implementation cost
than the estuary alternative, and has fewer public benefits (CLAMP 2007 net
benefit analysis). In addition, a separate 1997 Ecological Economics study
concluded that compared to all other biomes, estuaries generate the highest
value of ecosystem goods and services per hectare. The estuary alternative
simply makes sense at many levels.
Restoration is a Process
However, should the estuary alternative be chosen, it is important that the
sources of pollution currently in lower Budd Inlet, Capitol Lake, and Deschutes
River be assessed and cleaned up first. Restoring the Deschutes to the estuary
it once was means it will be connected to the larger water system that is Puget
Sound. It will return the force of the Deschutes as the second most important
river system influencing the south Soundís circulation, and transport not only
sediment but also pollutants with the outgoing tide; lower Budd Inlet pollutants
will be carried back up the sub-estuary with the incoming tide. In other words,
there will be a mixing of pollutants between the Deschutes and lower Budd Inlet,
as well as up Budd Inlet and throughout other areas of the south Sound.
The Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport Modeling report (2006) did not model
past the mouth of Budd Inlet but did suggest that the sediment (and likely, any
pollutants) would go beyond Budd Inlet. Given the importance of a healthy south
Sound for fish, shellfish, birds, and other wildlife, it is important that the
sources of pollutants in both the Deschutes and lower Budd Inlet be identified
and controlled before restoration takes place.
Sediment has been seen largely as a cost in the various CLAMP analyses. However,
good, clean sediment is a benefit to an estuarine ecosystem. It increases beach
formation and is a component of sorted pea gravel, an important part of the
Puget Sound basinís prime salmon habitat. Thus, return of the Deschutes River
sediment to southern Puget Sound would not only increase salmon habitat, but
could benefit homeowners by building up their beaches and lessening the impacts
of storm damage, among other benefits.
On the other hand, too much sediment can result in turbidity problems. Improved
land use management within the Deschutes River basin and lower Budd Inlet would
help prevent further increases in sediment levels while helping to resolve the
current ground water problems.
Comprehensive management of sub estuaries in Puget Sound will be part of the
larger solution for restoring the health of Puget Sound by 2020, the goal of the
Puget Sound Partnership.
The CLAMP Steering Committee held a retreat on July 2, 2009, to form their
recommendation on which alternative would best serve the public interest. A
majority of committee members were in favor of returning the area to an estuary.
This is the first step in a series of decisions. The next steps at the state
level will involve the General Administration, the Capital Committee, and the
Legislature. In addition, funds and political support will need to come from the
federal government, and there will continue to be opportunity for public input
throughout the process.
Please feel free to contact us at
email@example.com if you have any questions about conservation