Conservation Challenges in Thurston County
Black Hills Audubon faces several conservation challenges in Thurston County this fall, for which member participation is invited.
Mineral Lands Policy
Thurston County is considering radical changes in the code of the Mineral Lands chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. BHAS seeks your help in sending emails to the Planning Commissioners and/or County Commissioners. By coordinating with other environmental organizations, we hope to generate many more than the 120 emails (to the Planning Commission) that we elicited last March.
This fall, the Planning Commission (PC) will have two mandatory public hearings on new Comprehensive Plan language and code changes: one on Mineral Lands Policy, likely in October, and another, very critical hearing, on code changes in November. Public comments on code will be crucial, because protective critical areas code, implemented in 2010 after years of exhaustive research, could be seriously weakened. Although the Board of County Commissioners will have the final vote in 2019, it is important to focus now on comments to the PC. We plan to alert BHAS members of our recommended comments.
On a positive note, the County hydrogeologist has produced a comprehensive memo in which he summarizes the problems that sand and gravel mines can create on surface waters and the County’s aquifer. He recommends that mining companies produce reports that address some of these water concerns as part of their permit process. BHAS supports this effort.
Lake Lawrence Cell Tower
In 2015, Verizon proposed a cell tower to be located immediately adjacent to the Smith Area wetland that is intended as mitigation for the McAllister water rights. Following appeal by the Deschutes Neighborhood Group (DNG), the Hearing Examiner remanded the project for a more thorough bird study.
In December 2016, BHAS’s Deb Nickerson and Anne Mills trained DNG members concerning local birds, and Sally Nole, Bob Wadsworth, and Sue Danver assisted with the survey in the winter of 2017. After review of surveys by Verizon’s consultant and by DNG, the County again approved the tower. And again, the DNG appealed. At a recent hearing BHAS members Sally Nole and Bob Wadsworth testified about their efforts and their analyses of the two bird survey reports.
The Mitigation Area is publicly owned by Yelm, Olympia, and Tumwater and worthy of refuge status, as suggested by Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Dikes were removed this summer and birds moved in immediately. County code requires that a cell tower must be 1,000’ from a refuge so the tower project would have to be denied. The County has taken the position that it is not an official wetland. The decision date is October 5.
A proposed million square foot warehouse across from the truck stop of I-5 and 93rd Avenue in Tumwater has met the city’s application requirements. A major concern is its location in the Salmon Creek Basin, an area prone to serious floods. With heavy rains, this basin could experience groundwater flooding, such as occurred in 1999.
Because this area is part of the Black River watershed, pollution carried by floodwaters from the Salmon Creek Basin could affect not only residences, but also the thousands of conservation acres along the Black River, including the Black River National Wildlife Refuge and Glacier Heritage Park. We are seeking hydrological review of the developer’s water report and Tumwater’s response to that report. Early participation in the process is the best time to achieve success.