Citizens’ Voices Must Be Raised Again
In 2021 the owners of Beaver Creek Dairy Farm requested that the 365-acre property be rezoned from Rural Resources/Residential to Rural Resources Industrial.
In 2021 over 150 people, including many biologists and hydrologists, wrote comments to the county opposing this rezone because of the environmental sensitivity of the property. The Thurston County commissioners delayed action on the rezone request, but now will take it up again. Two recent events described below, an open house and the publication of the Industrial Lands Study, show the strength of pressure to develop the farm.
–In early February the Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to place it on their docket for 2024.
–According to Thurston County staff, the actual public hearing date will probably be in March for the Planning Commission to decide on the Comp Plan amendment/rezone request. Whether they recommend the project or not, state law requires an Environmental Impact Statement.
–After an Environmental Impact (EIS) is completed in six to twelve months, the Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to approve the Comp Plan amendment.
Citizens’ Next Steps
From the timeline, citizens will have three opportunities to voice their opposition. However, after millions have been spent on the EIS, it is unlikely that the rezone request will be denied. So we need to act this spring!
Local environmental organizations such as Black Hills Audubon Society and South Sound Sierra Club will alert their members about the exact dates for public comment periods for the docketing and/or the Planning Commission’s public hearing. They will provide more information and talking points. Check their websites. Works in Progress will also have more information in its March 1 issue.
Information may also be posted at the Thurston County webpage https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/beaver-creek-land-use-rezone-amendment
Most important is to let Thurston County know that this particular farm is a terrible place for warehouses. We made a big impact in 2021, and we can do so again!
Beaver Creek Farm is located at 13333 Case Road SW, Olympia. It is about .75 miles from the Maytown Road Intersection with I-5 and is to the west of I-5 and south of Maytown Road. What makes Beaver Creek Farm especially important for our environment is Beaver Creek, which wanders through the property.
The creek begins in the West Rocky Prairie area 3 miles to the east and continues northwest, with many a jog, until it joins the Black River, which in turn joins the Chehalis River. A healthy run of coho salmon spawns in the creek. The creek regularly floods the farm, in part because of the high-water table. In fact, FEMA lists that part of Beaver Creek as a flood zone. The Beaver Creek culvert under I-5 acts as an informal wildlife corridor.
The main danger of industrial development to Beaver Creek Farm and the wells of neighboring properties is the creation of many thousand square feet of impervious surfaces from warehouse roofs and parking lots. Impervious surfaces prevent precipitation and flooding from percolating into the soil, so they can cause more intense flooding. Worse, the flood waters will carry industrial pollution. Part of that pollution will be 6-PPD Quinone from truck tires; studies have shown it is fatal to young coho salmon.
People have long recognized the value of Beaver Creek to the Black River watershed. At the direction of the Washington Department of Ecology, for many years the dairy farm owner worked to reduce nitrogen levels from cattle fecal matter. The Chehalis Tribe and Washington state have spent thousands of dollars to create better conditions for coho in Beaver Creek. To protect the coho run, in 2023-2025 WSDOT has a project (number 238) to replace the Beaver Creek culvert under I-5.
For more information on the unique properties of the Beaver Creek Farm, you can read the 2021 alert from Black Hills Audubon Society: https://blackhills-audubon.org/bhas-alert-for-rezone-from-farming-to-industrial/#:~:text=A%20proposal%20is%20being%20made,a%20large%20warehouse%2Fdistribution%2
November 8, 2023, “Open House” for the Beaver Creek Farm Rezone Request
Because of so many environmental concerns, many people might say that this farm is one of the worst places in the county for industrial development. However, two recent developments show that there is renewed pressure to turn it into warehouses.
In fall 2023 the owner of Beaver Creek Farm submitted a new map of the proposed rezone area as part of their original application. The map shows the required 168 acres of critical area buffers on both sides of Beaver Creek. No text accompanies the map.
On November 8, 2023, Thurston County staff held a “new kind” of open house for the Beaver Creek proposed rezone with no staff presentation and an information station only for the owner. Members of the public could ask questions of county staff and write their comments on a white board, but no formal record was made of public comments. At their November 28 meeting some planning commissioners criticized the open house as seeming to be advertisement for the project’s proponents.
December 6, 2023, Industrial Lands Study Presentation
On December 6 the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) heard a presentation on the Industrial Land Study (ILS). Three of the recommendations of the ILS are squarely targeted at creating conditions to develop Beaver Creek Farm, and another recommendation is specifically to develop the Maytown I-5 intersection. If the ILS’s recommendations guide the BoCC decision about the re-zoning request, Beaver Creek Farms will become warehouses. For more on the ILS, see the article in this January 2024 issue of WIP at this link: https://olywip.org/warehouses-or-farms-in-our-county/