Sustainable Thurston Report Card

Goal: Protect and improve water quality, including groundwater, rivers, streams, lakes, and Puget Sound.


  • Protect small stream basins that are currently ranked as “intact” or “sensitive.”
  • Improve and restore as many “impacted” stream basins as possible.


CloudyStormy, concerns for the future.
Of the 44 basins classified as “intact” or “sensitive” in 2006, three basins were reclassified as “Impacted” in 2016. Of the 20 basins classified as “Impacted,” one saw conditions improve over the same time period.

  1. Number of Basins
  2. Map

Why is this important?

Healthy streams, lakes, and groundwater aquifers provide clean drinking water, habitat for aquatic species, and opportunities for swimming and fishing. Protecting healthy — and restoring degraded — watersheds and stream basins will ensure future generations' access to clean water throught the Thurston Region.

Key Observations

TRPC uses three land cover criteria – impervious surface, forest cover, and riparian vegetation – to assess overall basin health. Between 2001 and 2016, 13 of Thurston County's 70 basins saw their condition deteriorate.

  • Eight “intact” basins were reclassified as “sensitive” (Waddell Creek, Bloody Run, Salmon Creek, Fall Creek, Porter Creek, Sherman Creek, McIntosh Lake, and Elbow Lake)
  • Three “sensitive” basins were reclassified as “impacted” (Skookumchuck, Offut Lake, and Nisqually Reach)
  • Two “impacted” basins were reclassified as “degraded” (Mission Creek and Yelm Creek)

For some basins, degradation was due to timber harvests and conditions may improve over time. For others, it was due to development and increasing urbanization.

Two basins saw conditions improve. Capitol Lake was reclassified from “very degraded” to “degraded.” Hanaford Creek was reclassified from “impacted” to “sensitive.”

Overall, local organizations are taking steps to protect and improve the health of local rivers, streams, lakes, and the Puget Sound. It will take a wide range of efforts to accomplish regional goals, including:

  • Public outreach and engagement
  • Completing and implementing recommendations from basin studies, including those for McLane Creek Basin, Woodland Creek Basin, Black Lake Basin, and the Deschutes River Basin
  • Updating stormwater manuals and development codes to encourage low-impact development, including reduction of impervious surfaces and retention of forest cover
  • Funding habitat restoration projects identified by local planning groups, such as the WRIA 13 Lead Entity
  • Better enforcement of existing regulations

Basin Conditions

Intact Intact basins have little to no impervious surfaces, a nearly complete forest canopy, and vegetated riparian corridors. Water bodies are in excellent condition.

Sensitive Sensitive basins have minimal impervious area, considerable forest cover, and riparian corridors with few breaks in protective buffer. Water bodies are in good condition.

Impacted  Impacted basins are moderately urbanized, with some remaining forest cover. Riparian corridors are cleared in many places and water quality is fair.

Degraded Degraded basins are urbanized with limited remaining forest canopy or vegetated riparian areas. Water quality is poor, with multiple impairments.

Very Degraded Highly degraded stream basins generally have poor water quality and support a low diversity of aquatic species.