Legislative/Advocacy Action

Industry Continues to Threaten Black River Watershed

After six years of hearings and litigation, the Washington State Court of Appeals denied a Hearing Examiner’s approval of a Special Use Permit (SUP) for Quality Rock Products (QRP) for an expanded gravel mine, asphalt plant, and concrete plant adjacent to the Black River National Wildlife Refuge a few miles south of Black Hills High School. Since 2001, BHAS has been arguing that it is inappropriate to have an industrial operation on the border of a unique riparian ecosystem that is home to rare wetland plants, spawning coho, and the Oregon Spotted Frog (now a threatened species under Federal law). In 2007, the Appeals Court agreed with appellants Thurston County and BHAS. The Court focused its conclusion on the need for more water studies, saying “Missing from this analysis, however, is any assessment of this withdrawal’s effect on the Black River’s flow volume, particularly during the peak production, dry summer months.”

Alas, in 2009, QRP reapplied—this time for mine expansion and a concrete plant. In September 2017, QRP submitted final technical groundwater and mitigation reports, the last requirement to complete its application. Jim Mathieu, the hydrologist for BHAS, quickly submitted BHAS’s response. Water is our key environmental argument. BHAS has recommended several reasonable ways to greatly improve QRP’s analysis of mine impacts. These recommended analyses (additional model scenarios) would better inform the monitoring and mitigation necessary to protect the nearby aquatic habitat. To date, QRP has not directly acknowledged BHAS’ recommendations or comments.

BHAS’s two requests are (1) that QRP run computer models now for conditions where the mine excavation pit lakebed is less effective than QRP assumes, and (2) use the model results to equip select monitoring wells and creek stage gages with computer sensors both on and near the mine site. QRP has already installed monitoring wells, but they only take water-level samples at each site every three months and have no plans for continuous data collection. Computer sensors in wells and at creek stage gages provide much more reliable data by registering water levels continuously. With respect to point 1, BHAS is also concerned that disturbing the lakebed sides and bottom layer during on-going future excavation over the life of the mine would damage any protective lakebed silt layer. QRP suggests this protective silt layer would mitigate the altered water-seepage pattern from wetlands, streams and groundwater caused by the artificial lake. BHAS also questions the assumptions upon which the stated rate of lakebed silt-layer development is based.

Geoengineers, a consultant group retained by Thurston County, will examine the QRP groundwater memo and mitigation. If they agree with QRP, the State Environmental review (SEPA) and SUP land use hearing may take place in late fall or early winter. (by Sue Danver, photo Capitol Land Trust – Jodie Dubois)

Lake Lawrence Cell Tower Proposal: The Bird Surveys

In March 2016, Black Hills Audubon Society supported an appeal of a proposed cell-phone tower due to its location next to waterfowl-concentration areas and a high potential for bird collisions with the tower. The Thurston County Hearings Examiner remanded the proposal back to the County for further review. The proponent, Verizon Wireless, then hired a contractor to study bird movements near the tower site. In January through April this year, BHAS partnered with several dedicated neighborhood volunteers, and—guided by a local wildlife researcher—did their own citizen-science study to assess bird populations and flyways near the tower site.

This effort got an overwhelming response, with 25 volunteers including BHAS members Anne Mills, Sue Danver, Bob Wadsworth, Al Hultengren, Sally Nole and Bill Yates. Several hundred hours of observation time produced thousands of bird counts, and many species were identified, including several on State and Audubon birds-of-concern lists. A large wetland mitigation project next to the tower site attracts significant numbers of waterfowl, even though restoration work has not been completed; results show daily waterfowl migration between Lake Lawrence and wetland areas in the Deschutes River floodplain next to the proposed tower site. Neighborhood volunteers were engaged and enthusiastic to learn about local birds from BHAS members. Many voiced a desire to continue this survey next winter and after the wetland restoration project is completed to see how that project will further enhance habitats in this beautiful area, rich in birds and other wildlife. (by Sue Danver)


As many of you know, BHAS is a long-time supporter of prairie-oak woodland conservation. We were a partner with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in acquiring the original 810 acres at West Rocky Prairie from Citifor in 2004. At that time, WDFW wanted to purchase the entire property but half was sold to the Port of Tacoma (POT). The POT has proposed different development options that have failed for a variety of reasons including public opposition, and that the Port of Olympia has not granted an interlocal agreement for the POT to operate in Thurston County. Consequently, the POT is marketing the property for sale. WDFW is in negotiations with the POT to purchase 745 acres. BHAS will send letters to both ports supporting this acquisition.

For background information on the 2016 Expanded Project Description, click on the links below.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife WWRP Urban Wildlife 16 –1350A Expanded Project Description

Map of Project Area

We think that letters from BHAS will have greater impact if individuals sign on. You can read the BHAS letter by clicking on the link below. If you support this conservation effort, please send an email with your first and last name and indicate whether you are a member or friend to Elizabeth Rodrick, vice-pres@nullblackhills-audubon.org.



Addressing Climate Change

Audubon, at the national, state, and Black Hills chapter level, strongly support a carbon tax or fee to address climate change — a threat to our environment that is already making more likely severe storms, flooding, droughts, wildfires, and sea level rise. National Audubon scientists have determined that climate change is the greatest danger to avian wildlife. The study identifies 314 North American species of birds that are expected to lose more than half of their habitat by 2080. On the state level 189 Washington State species are similarly at risk, about half of the species found in the state.

Two major aspects of addressing climate disruption are (1) implementing measures to reduce the release of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and (2) preserving or managing habitat so that more species of birds and other wildlife can adapt to a new and ever-changing environment.

BHAS and Audubon Washington actively supported the Carbon Tax Initiative I-732, as well as the proposals from the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and the Governor that were under consideration during the 2017 legislative session, including active lobbying at the 2017 statewide Audubon Lobby Day in Olympia. Audubon is also organized to protect and preserve strongholds that are scientifically identified to be likely to remain relatively stable for endangered species.

LBA Woods Park

The City of Olympia has acquired the two wooded parcels behind LBA Park in SE Olympia (originally slated for housing), which together form the 150-acre LBA Woods. Previously, the BHAS Board had endorsed the effort by the LBA Woods Park Coalition to preserve both parcels as a natural park and endorsed the eventually successful effort to establish a Metropolitan Parks District, supported by a property tax, through a ballot measure in 2015. The Coalition has established a “Friends of LBA Woods” volunteer stewardship group and is partnering with the Olympia Parks Department to plan and host work parties to help with removal of invasive plant species and to organize a native-plant salvage on the five-acre parcel in the LBA Woods that will be partially cleared for installation of a water tower. The Coalition is also tracking the tranportation plans for east-west extension of Log Cabin Rd. from Boulevard to Wiggins Rd. BHAS is conducting work parties and field trips.

Updating Urban Critical Areas Ordinances

Black Hills Audubon is helping develoheron croppedp or update urban Critical Areas Ordinances that protect critical wildlife habitat.

We support changes in language in the City of Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan regarding species protection to benefit locally important wildlife species and habitats, such as that of the Great Blue Heron.

Updating Non-Urban Critical Areas Ordinances

The Thurston Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved an updated Critical Areas Ordinance on July 24, 2012.  Black Hills Audubon wa

Grebe_Pied-Billed copy

s supportive of updating this ordinance and participated by submitting Best Available Science reports, by submitting comments (including suggested improvements to the CAO drafts), and by encouraging its members to support updating the CAO.  Read more in the Olympian article (in Word) or (in PDF)

In 2010, BHAS had submitted three CAO-related reports to Thurston County on the Best Available Science for:

  • Important Marine Habitats (report prepared by Donna J. Nickerson)
  • Geology (report prepared by QWG Applied Geology)
  • Important Habitats and Species (report prepared by Sustainable Fisheries Foundation)

See Thurston County’s web site about the Critical Areas Ordinance update.