Thursday, May 6, 2010
Above: Olympia High School students Lindsay Judge, 15, and Jonah Barrett, 15, interview Allen Pleus, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife late this afternoon. The students were interviewing Pleus for the school's Olympia News Network (ONN) show, which also airs on Thurston Community Television.
by Janine Gates
The committee charged with making a recommendation to the state on the future of Capitol Lake was formally suspended this week by Governor Chris Gregoire.
After more than 10 years of extensive scientific, cultural, social and economic studies, the group, comprised of various state agency, tribal, county, port and regional city representatives, recently recommended that Capitol Lake return to being an estuary.
In a proviso of the 2010 supplemental capital budget signed by the Governor, funding for the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan (CLAMP) Steering Committee was cut, one of 70 different state commissions and committees that the Legislature and the Governor chose to end.
The Legislature did include authorization for the General Administration (GA) to spend a remaining $50,000 for the rest of the current biennium to deal with invasive species at the lake. This includes the New Zealand mud snail.
This morning, new GA director Joyce Turner, who has been on the job for three weeks, greeted CLAMP committee members as they held their regularly scheduled, last meeting in a GA second floor conference room.
CLAMP members and others in attendance were Neil McClanahan, CLAMP chair and Tumwater City Councilmember, Stephen Buxbaum, City of Olympia councilmember, Karen Valenzuela, Thurston County Commissioner, and Lydia Wagner and Perry Lund of the state Department of Ecology. Nathaniel Jones, GA staff, also sat in on the meeting.
The news that their work was shut down came as a shock to some CLAMP members, and they spent time processing the news.
"I'm embarrassed...I missed it...it totally caught me by surprise," said Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela. "What does this mean for water quality? What form does that take?" she questioned.
McClanahan said that he did not get a heads-up by GA, but found out about the proposed cut about a week before phone calls were made to individual committee members.
"There still has to be a (GA) recommendation to the State Capitol Committee...it's my feeling that we're at a crossroads, and this group, personally, we have a hell of a group. We have a lot of talent - we play together well, and we have good minds," consoled McClanahan.
While the previous General Administration director had a self-imposed June deadline to decide the fate of Capitol Lake, the new director, Joyce Turner, has said she doesn't know if that can be achieved.
When the director does make her decision, it will go to the State Capitol Committee, which is comprised of the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Commissioner of Public Lands. The State Capitol Committee will then direct the GA to make a budget request to the Legislature, in line with the recommendation of the State Capitol committee.
CLAMP committee members moved quickly through their stages of grief by reviewing their successes, discussing the biggest contributors to the watershed's water quality problems and reviewing the reasons for their recommendation to restore the lake to an estuary. They assessed their strengths and developed a strategy on their next steps.
Buxbaum said that there is a lot of mutual interest between the jurisdictions to continue talking.
"I have difficulty separating the lake and the whole system. It would be helpful to talk about how we manage the whole stretch. How can we establish clear districting with appropriate roles and responsibilities? How do we operate and maintain this dynamic system in an equitable way and ensure everyone has a seat at the table?"
Lydia Wagner, Ecology's Deschutes Water Cleanup Plan Coordinator, suggested that the Deschutes TMDL Advisory Group, which is comprised of many of the same members as the CLAMP group, could assist in filling in the gaps. TMDL stands for Total Maximum Daily Load. Wagner chairs the group.
Other groups mentioned were the South Puget Sound Core Group of the Puget Sound Partnership and the Budd Inlet Restoration Partnership, a group of local governments working on Budd Inlet cleanup. "As far as the pollutants go, the TMDL will be addressing that and assigning responsibilities for the whole watershed," said Wagner.
McClanahan said that he hoped that CLAMP's experiences will inform the TMDL to come to decisions and have an end product that leads to action. "Unless we get mindful of this, we'll have all the right people at the table but not change. We have to come to agreements and change behavior so we have a functioning watershed."
Buxbaum suggested moving forward to develop a plan that brings forward revenue solutions, such as the creation of lake districts. He also urged that the group continue to point out to GA that there are financial consequences to each of the choices now before GA. "We need to figure out what those are and how to address any negative outcomes for each option," said Buxbaum.
In the most simplest terms, the four choices on what to do with Capitol Lake as determined by CLAMP are to: 1) do nothing, 2) actively manage it as a lake, 3) restore the estuary, or 4) create a dual basin. Capitol Lake has been a lake since the Fifth Avenue dam was constructed in 1951.
Buxbaum said that the group needs to know how the New Zealand mud snail issue is going to be managed. "Short term solutions are needed - we have consequences daily with it - we're shut down," he said. A 400 foot long fence is around a portion of the lake, which is technically closed. Buxbaum also expressed concern that the invasive snail may be in other bodies of water, such as Black Lake, Ward Lake, or Percival Creek. "Who's going to find out, and by when?" Buxbaum asked.
Nathaniel Jones said it was important to him to recognize what brought CLAMP together - "The motivation is still there - we've had many accomplishments and those need to be celebrated. We've matured. This committee was formed in fire around various issues and we've moved beyond that - we've allowed the science to lead...that is nowhere near where we started."
Jones also acknowledged the Shoreline Master Plan update as "critical" work, and emphasized the importance that other groups maintain their focus, but also help identify what remaining CLAMP issues "need a home."
Valenzuela agreed, saying that this has been an emotional personal journey to understand the CLAMP issues so deeply.
Lund asked an important question: "Where do we meet? We can't use this room anymore." Valenzuela offered a meeting room at the county courthouse.
McClanahan then asked, "Well, what do we want to call ourselves?"
"CLAMP Redux" said Valenzuela.
"CLAMPS" for "Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan Suspended," offered Buxbaum.
"How about CLAMPED?" offered Buxbaum again. It stuck.
It seemed clear by all present that while the committee is formally suspended, everyone's enthusiasm for finding solutions to the problems wasn't diminished. The date for a future CLAMPED meeting was not set.
To learn more about CLAMP go to www.ga.wa.gov/CapitolLake for more information or contact Nathaniel Jones, Senior Manager, General Administration, at (360) 902-0944 or email@example.com
To learn more about the Deschutes TMDL, go to http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/tmdl/deschutes/advgrp.html or contact Lydia Wagner, Washington State Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6329 or Lydia.Wagner@ecy.wa.gov. The TMDL group's next meeting is Thursday, May 20, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon at the Tumwater Fire Department, 311 Israel Rd. SW, Tumwater.
Above: Allen Pleus, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife risks getting a skin rash and who knows what else to find New Zealand mud snails to show Olympia High School students Lindsay Judge and Jonah Barrett.
Above: Three New Zealand mud snails. Pleus says "these things are mostly all female and clone themselves. He says the Yellowstone River, for example, has 500,000 New Zealand mud snails per square meter. Capitol Lake has 20,000 per square meter. I asked him Olympia City Councilmember Stephen Buxbaum's question about whether or not the snail has invaded other waters. Pleus said they have surveyed Percival Creek, and did not find any.
"Eradication will be very difficult...We have a Capitol Lake response group that meets. We meet again next week. Scientifically, it's all a learning experience. Freezing them would have helped, but we only had one freeze. This summer, we'll drain the lake and try to expose them to heat but that brings a host of other problems, since other species such as birds, bats and fish rely on the water supply."
Asked how this problem impacts the pending lake/estuary issue, Pleus said, "Anything that we do would benefit either option, but it appears at this point that we need to deal with them (the mud snails) before you address those options."