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Flawed science in support of a predetermined decision approving the Westman Mill development

On March 8th, Olympia Urban Waters League appealed the City of Olympia’s decision to issue a determination of non-significance (DNS) for the Westman Mill development.

Nothing about this SEPA DNS addresses the impacts on the impaired waters of the East Bay estuary or Indian and Moxlie Creeks, despite a preponderance of science affirming daylighting and restoration as a necessary step to improving water quality. This plan from the beginning has been designed for one purpose: to allow development in the historic estuary of a degraded stream in an impaired water body.

We believe this SEPA DNS should be rejected because the option of removing the stream from a half-mile long culvert and restoring the estuary has never been seriously considered. The assumption from the beginning has been that the site would be developed, an assumption that invalidated the ensuing process that has been fraught throughout with attempts to ignore, mischaracterize and ridicule community efforts at restoration.

More significantly, the science is inherently flawed. There’s no mention of phytoplankton in the SEPA review, no mention of zooplankton, benthic species, salt marsh, overhanging vegetation, insects, salmon or locally extinct species of water birds, all assumed, if we accept the status quo, to recover and live in a long dark pipe.

East Bay is considered impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act because it contains too many nitrates and too little dissolved oxygen. The Estuary Restoration Act, administered under NOAA, says estuaries are dynamic and productive and support important ecosystem functions including bio-geochemical cycling and movement of nutrients, mitigation of floods, maintenance of biodiversity and biological production. The Westman Mill site is the area of intertidal exchange. This is the only place this exchange can be located. It can’t be remediated elsewhere.

The estuary needs to be structured as naturally as possible to be effective. The rate of flow of a liquid increases as diameter narrows and decreases as diameter expands. By expanding and slowing flow sedimentation increases and scouring decreases. Daylighting the stream through a narrow area to one side of the development would not be a restoration. It would be a concrete lined channel. This is an opportunity to restore a small portion of the original estuary. The entire parcel needs to be involved.

The Moxlie Creek estuary is clearly a critical area. Critical areas coalesce under federal and state laws including the Federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Shoreline Management Act, Watershed Planning Act, Salmon Recovery Act, the Municipal Water Law and the Growth Management Act.

Follow the effort on Olympia Urban Waters League website: https://urban-waters.com

 

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