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Deschutes Watershed Land Use Analysis

Project BackgroundDeschutes River

The Deschutes River is one of the largest streams in Thurston County, flowing over 57 miles from its forested headwaters to Puget Sound. The watershed that drains into the river includes a variety of land uses, including timber and agricultural lands, as well as developed areas within the cities of Olympia and Tumwater. While the Deschutes River currently supports a variety of wildlife habitat and recreational uses, it also suffers from ongoing pollution concerns. The river is listed under the federal Clean Water Act for dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform, temperature, pH, and fine sediment, and is the subject of a state-coordinated cleanup plan. Nutrient levels in the Deschutes contribute to pollution issues in Capitol Lake, and it is considered a major contributor to low dissolved oxygen levels in Budd Inlet.  Anticipated future development in the watershed could exacerbate water quality issues.

Thurston County teamed with the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC), in coordination with the cities of Olympia, Rainier, and Tumwater, and the Squaxin Island Tribe, to consider changes to land use and development regulations in the Deschutes River watershed to protect and improve water quality. This collaborative effort was funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As a part of this project, the project team completed a report detailing existing conditions in the Deschutes Watershed. This report provided the background for the development of scenarios to investigate the effects of different land management strategies on water quality and other factors. The scenarios were reviewed by a stakeholder group, who collaborated on a set of recommendations for future management in the watershed. These recommendations were approved by the Board of County Commissioners on November 29, 2016.

Through this work, we can contribute to improved water quality in the Deschutes River, as well as long-term protection of sensitive lands and ecological functions.

Public Outreach

The project team gathered information from residents and other users in targeted areas of the watershed to help identify what potential land use changes should be investigated as part of this study. In June 2015, landowners were mailed a survey to help inform this process. A stakeholder group informed the development of alternative future scenarios, and considered the impacts of different land use management options on water quality and other factors in the watershed.

Agenda Materials
December 11, 2015 Meeting 1 Summary Notes
Project Overview Presentation
January 29, 2016 Meeting 2 Summary Notes
Management Tools Presentation
Voluntary Approaches Presentation
March 25, 2016 Meeting 3 Summary Notes
Concerns and Scenarios Presentation
June 2, 2016 Meeting 4 Summary Notes
Scenarios Results Presentation
September 2, 2016 Meeting 5 Summary Notes

The project team presented the alternative future scenarios and recommended land use management options from the stakeholder workgroup at a community workshop on June 30, 2016 and incorporated input from the public and residents of the watershed in the final recommendations.

Community Workshop Presentation - June 30, 2016


This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under Puget Sound Ecosystem Restoration and Protection Cooperative Agreement Grant PC-00J20101 with Washington Department of Ecology. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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