Guiding Growth — Healthy Watersheds

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Photo credit: Washington State Department of Ecology
Overview

TRPC and Thurston County are collaborating to bring watershed science into local policies that protect the water quality of our creeks, rivers, lakes and Puget Sound. The projects listed below begin with interdisciplinary project teams of planners and engineers exploring the land cover, pollution levels, and other current conditions of Thurston County’s watersheds and the smaller basins within. The analyses help the project teams identify areas that are at highest risk from future development and areas that can benefit most from protection and restoration of ecological functions. The project teams then assess the effects of various future strategies, taking into account factors such as projected population, employment and transportation.

Surveys and additional feedback from the watersheds’ residents help shape land-use recommendations — anything from adjusting cities’ urban growth area boundaries and zoning to creating new requirements and incentives for low-impact development, tree retention, and stream bank restoration.

Each watershed is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to management and protection. Local jurisdictions may choose which management strategies fit their community best.

Thurston County Hydrology Map

 ImpervSurfaces

Click to view as full screen, interactive map

Projects

Deschutes Watershed

This project, which commenced in early 2015, focuses on the Deschutes River Watershed, upstream from the Capitol Lake complex. The Deschutes River is a regionally important water body that suffers from ongoing pollution concerns and intense growth pressure that is likely to exacerbate those issues. The goal of this project is to reduce impacts to water quality and quantity from current and future residential development in the broader watershed by developing land use policy that directs growth away from areas with properly functioning ecological processes and lessens the impact on areas that do develop.  

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Photo credit: Lydia Wagner, Washington State Department of Ecology
The study will conclude in 2016, and results will be incorporated into Thurston County’s Comprehensive Plan and development regulation update. More information is available at Thurston County’s project website.

For background information and supporting documents visit the 
Guiding Growth - Healthy Watersheds Project Materials page.
Science to Local Policy
This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded project, which concludes in mid-2015, began with an evaluation of the conditions of all basins within the Budd/Deschutes, Totten Inlet, and Eld Inlet watersheds (see Basin Evaluation and Management Strategies). Ultimately, the project team selected three basins — McLane Creek, Black Lake and Woodard Creek basins — for further study.
Salmon
Photo credit: TRPC

The team is incorporating watershed characterization, hydrologic modeling, stakeholder input, and other analysis into management strategies for the McLane Creek, Black Lake and Woodard Creek basins. Pending policymaker approval, the strategies will be incorporated into the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan and updates to development regulations. Draft basin reports will be available in spring 2015. More information is available at Thurston County’s project website.