Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Proposed Thurston County Geoduck Farming Applications Heard

Proposed Thurston County Geoduck Farming Applications Heard

by Janine Unsoeld

Thurston County Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice heard lengthy applicant and public testimony on Monday by Taylor Shellfish Company, Arcadia Point Seafood, and concerned citizens about three proposed geoduck shellfish and manila clam production projects on Henderson Inlet. The hearing was held at the Thurston County Fairgrounds.

The hearing was significant because these are the first geoduck aquaculture applications recommended for approval by Thurston County since 2007.

The applicants have requested approval of a shoreline substantial development permit for intertidal commercial geoduck shellfish production. Two of the proposed projects are adjacent to each other, one property owned by the Theisen's, and one owned by the Lockhart's. The McClure property is about 1/4 of a mile away from the other properties.

Taylor is seeking to farm the shoreline of Lockhart, and Arcadia Point Seafood LTD is seeking to farm the Theisen and McClure properties.

Rice clarified the confusing interrelationships, saying in her opening remarks, "Normally, each case would be heard separately, but that would entail three tortuously redundant hearings." All documentation is shared by all applicants, with minor variances.

Mike Kain, planning manager for the Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department, presented the county's summary recommendation that all three applications be approved with conditions. In his verbal report, Kain said that "cumulative impacts are not significant."

However, cumulative impacts are exactly what many of those concerned with commercial shellfish farming believe is important. The applicants first proposed their projects in 2010 and have a long procedural history.

The parties involved in yesterday's hearing were there because, in January 2011, Thurston County hearing examiner Tom Bjorgen issued a summary judgement that states, in part, that the proposed geoduck operations are deemed a "development" under the Shoreline Master Act because they involve "construction of a structure." This judgement required a hearing on a substantial development permit for the proposed operation.

Taylor company attorneys and staff started the day's proceedings, taking nearly two hours to present its case, saying they were a fifth generation family owned company that employs 400 family wage earners. They also said the company has recently received a certified sustainable agriculture label from Food Alliance. Food Alliance is a Portland based nonprofit organization.

Armed with easels of photos, site maps, and foam board posters depicting geoduck culture, Taylor staff explained the process by which geoducks are planted, nurtured, and harvested.

Brian Phipps, Taylor's geoduck division manager, concluded his geoduck rearing lesson by telling Rice, "I'm out there everyday - it's nice that the science is catching up with what we knew all along."

Rice asked Phipps several clarifying questions including those about plastic debris left on the shoreline and asked how many tubes wash up on a normal weather day. He admitted that when they conducted their first Puget Sound wide garbage clean up day six years ago, they found 800 PVC pipes that weren't necessarily belonging to Taylor. The last clean up, which is now held biannually, garnered two tubes within a 125 mile area.

Diane Cooper, Taylor's head of regulatory affairs, presented a study and talking points using PowerPoint to affirm its belief that geoduck aquaculture is a no net loss industry.

"Although Henderson Inlet has had an up and down history with water quality issues, there have been, as a result of close monitoring, several upgrades that make the area ideal for commercial shellfish production." She stated that they are doing their part to fulfill Governor Gregoire's Washington Shellfish Initiative, which calls for clean water commerce, family wage jobs, and expanding and promoting the shellfish production industry.

Recent Case Law and Public Testimony

Commercial geoduck shellfish farming is a new industry, becoming prevalent in the mid 1990s. Project proposals, permit applications, hearings, and potentially precedent setting case law are being monitored daily by all involved on a local, national, and international level.

Local geoduck project opponents have worked for years with a plea for environmental balance. Numerous local shellfish growers were present and were equally passionate in their testimony in their belief that they are involved in an industry that gives back to the environment.

Susan Macomson, who lives on Nisqually Reach, and Laura Hendricks, chair of the Sierra Club -Marine Ecosystem Campaign for Washington State, both belong to several organizations that urge the protection of Puget Sound shorelines to preserve natural habitat. They were the only ones present who chose to testify against the proposals. Numerous written letters and emails recently sent to county staff were entered into the formal record.

Macomson said that she bought her waterfront home 11 years ago and her neighbors on either side of her have shellfish aquaculture farms on their properties.  She brought a bag of debris left on her property from the shellfish industry, and said she has witnessed first hand the devastation that the shellfish industry has had on her land. It was not clear if the debris involved the applicants.

The county staff report for the Henderson Inlet cases say that homeowners may ask for a reduction in their appraised value, which may imply these shellfish operations have an adverse impact on shoreline owners. Macomson said in her testimony that she will apply for this reduction.

In her testimony, Laura Hendricks said that the hearing examiner has the discretion to determine whether cumulative impacts were considered adequately, as done in a July 19, 2012 decision against Taylor by Thurston County hearing examiner Tom Bjorgen.

In that case, Taylor sought to expand its north Totten Inlet mussel raft operation there to 58 rafts anchored to the sea-floor, off-shore, covering an area leased from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources of 11.25 acres. Taylor lost that case based on their failure to adequately analyze three critical cumulative impacts the rafts may have on the marine environment: impacts of low dissolved oxygen on aquatic life and habitat; effect on the benthic (sea bottom water creatures) community; and the potential spreading of or genetic pollution by Gallo mussels.

Bjorgen's decision was recently upheld by the Thurston County commissioners in a letter to the Washington State Department of Ecology dated November 16, 2012. Quoting portions of the state Shoreline Management Act of 1971 and recent Shoreline Hearing Board case law, the commissioners also quoted Fladseth v. Mason County, SHB No. 05-026 (2007), stating that "consideration of potential cumulative effects and precedential effects is warranted in any case where there is proof of impacts that risk harm to habitat."

In the most recent Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat v. Pierce Co. and Longbranch Shellfish, LLC, SHB No. 11-019 (2012), Taylor won but opponents scored some points - the shellfish industry can't do work during forage fish spawning season. The Longbranch case was mentioned up front by Taylor's attorney in his opening remarks, saying, "that case sets the stage...virtually every issue here was raised there."

Hendricks asked that the permits be denied on the basis that there was an inadequate analysis of cumulative impacts. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has a pending lease for the publicly owned tidelands adjacent to the Lockhart/Theisen project, and she stated that such projects fragment the shorelines and create a piecemeal development. Hendricks said if cumulative impacts were not considered - as in the Totten Inlet mussel raft case - the examiner may ask for a cumulative impacts analysis.

Hendricks repeatedly questioned the shellfish industry's benefit to the public.

"If I were an animal listening to this testimony, I'd be scared to death, wondering who is representing me...nobody is talking about the protection and conservation of Puget Sound species for what it is...The permits do not address the mitigation of impacts...they purge the beach of native's part of the process....PVC pipes don't go through shellfish, moon snails, (and) sand dollars, so you have to assume it's what it is: industrial agriculture. We're not just oyster farmers anymore, that's why people got along for five generations. Now we're talking about tubes, nets, canopy nets, harvesting, liquefying, boats, barges, and generators. You have to show mitigation of the impacts, and that hasn't been done...."

Hendricks also brought a "sustainable bag filled with the most unsustainable things I've ever seen...." and produced little bands that pull apart, zip ties, and other shellfish industry debris. "These come up on our's not safe for citizens, the public...."

She also asked where the public benefit is, if the industry does not pay export, sales, or excise taxes, saying that 90% of south Puget Sound geoducks are shipped out of state.

At the hearing, Hendricks admitted that she thought the hearing was about the legal reasons the applications are not consistent with the Thurston County Shoreline Master Plan and Shoreline Master Act, and did not bring science-related information with her to counter Taylor's testimony. Rice said she would hold the record open to allow Hendricks to offer that information. Hendricks did so, and provided studies relating to nitrogen and canopy netting. The record was closed Tuesday at the close of business.

Eloquent testimony by numerous local shellfish growers, some with current or former tribal affiliations, was heard in support of the applications. Most, if not all, of their testimony was based on personal experience in the industry. Many of them followed Macomson's and Hendricks' testimony and thus responded to their comments.

Don Gillies, a shellfish grower from Pacific County, said he was in support of the applications. He said he is a small family owned operation and is farming on the same beds his ancestors did, who homesteaded the land in Willapa Bay in 1865.  He sees the long-term benefits of shellfish growing. "Curiosity motivated my attendance today about what this whole process was about and what was going on. My 'what' questions have been answered, but my 'why' questions still need to be answered."

Susan Shotwell, shellfish farm manager for the Nisqually Tribe, testified that the Nisqually Tribe approves of the applications. She detailed her work history in the shellfish industry since she was 14 years old, which includes Taylor Shellfish Company and Arcadia Point Seafood owners Steve and Vicki Wilson.

Mark Schaffel, a shellfish farmer in Olympia, said in part that he is glad to be involved in an industry that doesn't use pesticides or fertilizers. He said he employs "a bunch of young people....I'm helping the economy pretty well, and pay taxes related to pipes, fuel, boats, and payroll taxes...and with all the I-Pads and computers we buy, it's kind of nice to sell something back to China...."

Rice will issue three separate application decisions. At the end of the hearing, there was a collective sigh of relief and laughter from those present as Rice worked out the particulars of what happens next.

"...I really don't know much about shell fishing - farming - this will all be new information to me. I don't want to be quick about it. One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to be a mini-expert but this is a lot of expertise!" said Rice. Taylor attorneys encouraged Rice to take all the time she needed, especially given the upcoming holidays.

"I've never had an applicant ask me to take more time - I'm excited to know more about the issue...." she added. A decision date by January 10, 2013 was agreed upon as acceptable by all parties.

Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice is a principal at the Offices of Sharon Rice Hearing Examiner PLL, president of the Hearing Examiner Association of Washington, and a partner at Toweill Rice LLC. She holds a BA in environmental policy and political economy from The Evergreen State College and received her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law.

For more information, including pictures of existing and proposed farms, go to Protect Our Shoreline at, the Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld, and Totten Inlets at or the Sierra Club at

Project applications and Thurston County staff reports:

The Taylor-Totten Inlet mussel raft expansion case can be found at

For more articles written by Janine Gates Unsoeld about the geoduck industry, use the search button at


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rubber Ducky, You're The One...

Above: This rubber ducky, trapped behind the fence at Capitol Lake, sports an unlucky number, identifying it as a participant in the popular, annual Duck Dash charity event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lacey.

Rubber Ducky, You're The One...

by Janine Unsoeld

Well, one of twelve thousand....

An unusual species has been documented at Capitol Lake. On a walk around the lake this past week, at least 20 rubber ducks were identified as bobbing on the surface of the lake or trapped in storm debris that also included flipflops, a soccer ball, soda and beer cans, plastic water bottles, and more.

While the rubber ducks are certainly not the only litter in Capitol Lake, they are, arguably, the cutest. Unfortunately, they can also be traced to one single event: the popular, annual Duck Dash sponsored by the Rotary of Club of Lacey. Held in June at Tumwater Falls Park, it's a spectacular event that raises thousands of dollars by local individuals, businesses and organizations for needy local charities.

Losing about 20 renegades out of a possible 12,000 rubber ducks thrown over the Tumwater Falls bridge into the Deschutes River for such a worthy cause isn't that bad perhaps, but still, one has to wonder, is there an alternative?

Contacted this week by Little Hollywood about the multiple, confirmed sightings of this invasive species in Capitol Lake, Lacey Rotary Club president Mary Segawa explained the work of the Rotary group and seemed to welcome input on alternatives to using the rubber ducks.

"Thank you for contacting me about the ducks. We try very hard to get them all the day of the race, but some of them hide out pretty well in nooks and crannies. When we are made aware, we do our best to get them....we will work on getting them picked up. I really appreciate your letting us know about this. We are now getting our committee established for the 2013 fundraiser, and I will share your email with them," Segawa said in an email received today.

The 2013 Duck Dash will be the Rotary's 24th year of conducting the event.
Asked if there could be alternatives to using the rubber ducks, Segawa said, "At this time I personally have no ideas on what would work in place of the rubber ducks, but I will take it to the committee. The quantity will be one of the main issues since we number and use 12,000 ducks. The ducks are shared by a number of Rotary groups in Washington so that we can all keep our costs manageable and use the maximum amount of the proceeds for community and international projects. The ducks are washed after being used so we do not carry any unwanted creatures (such as the snails in Capitol Lake) to other bodies of water, we have boats and people at the end of the race to catch the ducks, and we also send members all along the river with nets and bags right after the race ends to bring in the stray ducks. Unfortunately, some still get through," she said.

Segawa also said that the Duck Dash is the only big fundraiser for Lacey Rotary and has been netting $40,000 - $54,000 for the past few years.
Editor's Note on Common Sense: While it would appear some rubber ducks were already plucked from the water when there was a high water level in Capitol Lake last week, it would be very unsafe and not recommended for anyone to try and reach over the edge of the low concrete wall to retrieve loose rubber ducks. In her email, Segawa also asked where the ducks were last seen, and the Rotary group will attempt to gather them.
For more information about the Duck Dash, including a full list of the organizations that benefit from the success of the Rotary's fundraiser, go to:
Above: A rubber duck, a soccer ball, and a bottle are just some of the trash evident in Capitol Lake this past week.
Above: Nearing the end of her walk around Capitol Lake, this photographer happened upon ducks that had already been rescued. Looking over the edge, there were several more in the debris that could not be reached.

Friday, November 23, 2012

J-Vee Health Foods Store To Close After 47 Years

Above: J-Vee Health Foods on Pacific Avenue in Lacey is closing its doors on November 30 after 47 years in business.

J-Vee Health Foods Store To Close After 47 Years

by Janine Unsoeld

While thousands of shoppers made the mad dash to big-box stores in South Sound Center on this Black Friday, local business J-Vee Health Foods quietly welcomed a few long time, loyal customers who stopped by to make a few purchases, and say goodbye.

J-Vee Health Foods' last day will be November 30, after 47 years in business. It's the end of an era for a business that borders those big-box stores, near the Olympia-Lacey city line at 3720 Pacific Avenue.

Tricia Brassfield, the daughter of J-Vee's owners Tom and Yvonne Stabno, greeted a steady stream of customers today.

Everything is currently 40% off, with a wide selection of popular health care and vitamin products such as Paul Stamets' line of Host Defense products, including Turkey Tail, which regularly retails for well over $20 a bottle; Boiron brand homeopathic products, including a wide selection of blue tubes; vitamin supplements; bulk Frontier herbs and spices; and more.

In between customers, Brassfield took the time to talk about what the store means to her and her family.

Her father suffered a massive stroke three years ago tomorrow. Her mother has been Tom's fulltime caregiver ever since. "Mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially, mom is drained," said Brassfield.

Her parents bought the store in 1965 from Joe and Virginia Mugartegui, which is why the store is named J-Vee. She said her mother worked for them back when there was just a lunch counter in the back corner of the store. The store sold vitamins and grocery items. Over the years, as competition for similar products has grown, business has dwindled. When asked for other reasons why the store is closing, Brassfield admitted that "advertising wasn't in the budget."

"Also, a lot of our loyal customers were elderly, and have died, and the younger ones say, 'I can get it cheaper online,'" said Brassfield.

Brassfield says she's not sure what she's going to do next. "A lot of us don't know anything different. There's six of us. Jody, who works in the restaurant, has been with us 28 years." Brassfield says she has applied for several state jobs but may work as a bartista for a friend's business.

A customer, Nathan, comes in, greets Brassfield, and leaves with a couple bags of flax seed for $2.13. He said he's been coming for a couple years and really likes their sandwiches.

Another customer, Marybeth, comes in and leaves with sea salt and other products for a total of $17.84. "I'm so sad you're closing," she said to Brassfield as she paid for her purchases.

Other customers, including a three generation family, came in to see if Brassfield had any souvenirs for sale that may say J-Vee Health Foods on it.

"Hi Sue!" Brassfield warmly greeted one of the women as they came in. Unfortunately, she had no souvenirs.

After this family left, Brassfield told me that the boys always get milk shakes and chicken salad sandwiches when they come in. That explains why one of the boys was begging to buy the industrial sized milk shake machine.

The restaurant, which was closed today, will be open on Monday. The store has a cozy, warm homemade soup smell that many will keep in their memories.

Some things are not for sale. Memories, long-time relationships, and one original store sign created out of wood many years ago by a customer, Brassfield will keep.

Ironically, I encountered one of the customers a short time later who had stopped into J-Vee's with two other men, at the Eastside Olympia Food Co-op, also on Pacific Avenue. They had left J-Vee's with no purchases because Brassfield didn't have what they usually get there. Leaving the Co-op, Phil Murr said he's been going to J-Vee's since the 1980s. "In winter, I always stocked up on my Vitamin C and in fall, I stocked up on my Mill Creek shampoo." Now, with a big bottle of Nature's Plus Vitamin C tablets in his hand, he's taken his business to another local store.

A Conversation with Olympia Business Pioneer Virginia Mugartegui

Virginia Mugartegui, 88, contacted by phone tonight, was only too happy to talk about the early days of J-Vee Health Foods.

"We started in the South Sound Mall, and outgrew the place. We wanted to move to another location, but they said we weren't a real business. They thought we were a make-believe business, I guess. A lot of people didn't believe in health food back then. Friends of mine in Tacoma used to say 'quack-quack-quack' and doctors wanted nothing to do with alternative medicine."

"So, the building on Pacific Avenue was built for us....there used to be a house there. At first we had a gift shop up front, then, after a couple years, we put in the restaurant."

I asked her why she started the business.

"I had headaches, and didn't feel well. I was 40 years old. Then I read a book by Adelle Davis - there was a chapter in there that fit me to a "T" so I got interested in health food. The first thing I did was go down to California and asked a popular health food store there if they would give me a discount on vitamins. And they did!"

"Yvonne worked for me for 18 years - she was a friend of my daughter's. Joe and I also had J-Vee II on Capitol Boulevard in Tumwater by the brewery, across from the ice cream shop. We renamed it Smart Nutrition. We had both for several years but Joe and I felt it was too much so we sold J-Vee's to Yvonne. Yvonne was wonderful - I love her dearly."

Joe passed away in late 2009 and Smart Nutrition closed in 2010. "I couldn't do it anymore - I was just getting too dang old, and there was competition."

Asked who she thinks is the competition, Virginia commented, "Well, Super Supplements offers such big discounts you can't even begin to sell them for that amount. It's very difficult to compete with that."

Above: A Sign of The Times - the original wooden sign for J-Vee Health Foods store.
Editor's Note: When I arrived in Olympia in 1982, I remember my friend Mary taking me to J-Vee's to buy cruelty-free cosmetics. It's where I bought my very first lipstick. Why, I don't know, since I was going to go to Evergreen. Anyways, I distinctly remember the smell of homemade soup permeating throughout the building, and it smelled exactly the same when I walked in today....Ymmm....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day To Feast: A Thanksgiving Story

Above: Is it the Loch Ness Monster?

A Day To Feast: A Thanksgiving Story

by Janine Unsoeld

On Tuesday afternoon, I happened to be standing on the shoreline, steps away from the Moxlie Creek outfall pipe near East Bay Drive. Moments after speaking with Andy Haub, city of Olympia's public works planning and engineering manager on my cellphone about the Moxlie Creek wastewater discharge incident into Budd Inlet, I saw a deep wave approach my feet.

My first thought was that it was from the wake of a boat, but, looking up, there was no boat nearby. Having visited Loch Ness in Scotland as a teen, my next thought was that it was the Loch Ness Monster! The wave was huge! I took a picture of the wave coming to lap at my feet. Kind of a funny thing to do if you're about to be eaten by something big, but hey, I'm a photographer, what can I say?

My legs turned to Jello as the wave rolled toward me. I thought, this is very strange! All of a sudden, two large harbor seals pitched themselves out of the water and with expert precision, working as a team, corralled a massive salmon onto shore right in front of me. Stepping back, I took many pictures of the action. It appears there were two harbor seals and a pup involved.

The harbor seals feasted on a fine meal, making quick work of the salmon.

After much feasting, nearby seagulls got involved, even dive bombing the sometimes submerged seal and salmon, to steal a snack.  

Above: Hey! Where's my feast?
Alas, there were no leftovers, and everyone went away, the commotion over for now. It was a tremendous sight at close range that still makes my heart pound!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When It Rains, It Pours

Above: The fencing around Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia on Tuesday afternoon is partially under water. Andy Haub, city of Olympia's public works planning and engineering manager, said high tide was 15.5 ft. at 11:19 a.m. on Tuesday and that the peak flow of the Deschutes River was running at 46,000 cubic feet per second. He said city utility crews are starting to take precautions to prevent potential flooding in downtown Olympia.
When It Rains, It Pours

By Janine Unsoeld

It’s been a busy week for Andy Haub, city of Olympia’s public works planning and engineering manager. Not only is he monitoring potential flooding in downtown Olympia due to recent heavy rains, he is still reeling from the estimated 1.5 million gallon discharge of bacteria-laden, high nitrate, raw wastewater into Budd Inlet via a pipe located near East Bay Drive.
In a city press release issued Wednesday, November 14, city public works crews discovered, on November 13, that domestic wastewater was discharging to Moxlie Creek.  Moxlie Creek runs under downtown Olympia in a large pipe and discharges to Budd Inlet at the head of East Bay. Crews immediately corrected and reported the discharge.

Upon investigation of the cause, public works staff discovered that the discharge began in mid-September after a plugged pipe that had been opened for cleaning and maintenance was not re-plugged. The plug prevented wastewater from entering the downstream stormwater system.
At the time, Haub said, “Due to the complexity of the system, public works crews did not recognize the connection between the wastewater, stormwater and Moxlie Creek systems.”

It is estimated that up to 1.5 million gallons of wastewater were discharged over the last two months. The city has reviewed their procedures and have taken steps to prevent future occurrences.
On Wednesday evening, November 14, at the regular monthly board meeting of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, board member and Tumwater City Councilmember Tom Oliva asked LOTT staff for more information on the situation. Oliva asked if there was a process regarding liability, including fines, and if environmental damage has been established.
LOTT staff and Laurie Pierce, operations and facilities director for LOTT, responded that they did not have much more information. Pierce clarified that per the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, LOTT is the clearinghouse for all reports to Ecology, and LOTT was responsible for reporting the incident.

Yesterday, in a telephone conversation with this reporter, Haub reiterated his own disappointment that the incident occurred.

“We made a mistake - it’s our responsibility. There were no outside contractors responsible. This was work performed by city staff….A sequence of minor mistakes created a perfect storm for a unique situation.” Haub said that during a thorough debriefing with staff, it was realized that the situation occurred over a period of six months and 14 staff were involved.

Pat Bailey, compliance specialist for municipal wastewater in the southwest regional office of the Washington State Department of Ecology, said in a telephone conversation late today that the city of Olympia reported the incident themselves. Under the type of permit, the incident is supposed to be reported immediately or within 24 hours.

“From what we can tell, at this point, because Olympia reported it as soon as they turned the wrench (to stop the discharge), there probably won’t be any monetary penalties… and the city reported it to LOTT within the required five days. I just spoke with Andy on Monday and we’ll get a full report and get together within a week. We don’t want something thrown together, we want good facts,” said Bailey.
Bailey said Haub was truly upset when he called her to report the incident. “It happened. The great thing is that there are quite a few old collection systems - sewer to stormwater cross connects - and this one has been corrected.”

For more information, go to: or Andy Haub, Planning and Engineering Manager, (360) 753-8475,
Above: Fencing nearly under water around Capitol Lake warns that the Capitol Lake is closed due to New Zealand mud snail contamination.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LOTT Groundwater Recharge Study Group: 16 Community Members Appointed

LOTT Groundwater Recharge Study Group:  16 Community Members Appointed
By Janine Unsoeld

At the LOTT Clean Water Alliance meeting Wednesday night, the board approved a motion to appoint 16 members to the LOTT's Community Advisory Group for the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study.

The members are: Maureen Canny, John Cusick, Marissa Dallaire, Lyle Fogg, Holly Gadbaw, William Gill, Azeem Hoosein, Karen Janowitz, Emily Lardner, Bill Liechy, Scott Morgan, Pixie Needham, Tina Peterson, Ruth Shearer, Edward Steinweg, and Richard Wallace.

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance is beginning a multi-year study, called the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, to help LOTT and the community better understand how to protect local water resources while treating and recharging reclaimed water.
According to a staff report, the community advisory group is being formed for the groundwater study with a mission to assist the LOTT Alliance Board and a study team gain an understanding of community perspectives and questions, and ensure the study is designed to address community concerns. The group will also help identify effective ways to engage the public throughout the study.

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance received 39 applicants by the September 14 application deadline. The LOTT Board, comprised of four local elected officials representing the cities of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County, reviewed all the applications and met on October 29 to select members for the group. The selected individuals have been contacted by LOTT and confirmed their willingness to serve on the advisory group.
The group’s mission and work plan are detailed in a seven page Mission and Principles of Participation document prepared by LOTT staff.  Applicants are expected to serve four to five months, and attend about one meeting a month, for Phase I of the study. They will be invited to continue for the duration of the study, expected to last about four years, but are not obligated to, said Lisa Dennis-Perez, LOTT's public communication manager, in her staff report to the LOTT Board tonight.

Dennis-Perez said it has been very difficult to coordinate 16 people's schedule for their first meeting, but a date is anticipated in mid-December. Observers are welcome at the meetings and there will be an opportunity for public comment at the end of each meeting.

LOTT board member, Tumwater city councilmember Tom Oliva, asked staff about scheduling a time to meet the community group representatives.  Applicants were not interviewed by the board, but selected based on their applications.  Due to scheduling difficulties, Dennis-Perez suggested that LOTT board members attend one of their meetings.

Community Advisory Group Members 

The community group represents several state workers, a doctor in pediatrics, an engineer, a retired nurse, and a former elected official, among other aspects that may have played a role in their interest in being involved with the study group.
Little Hollywood contacted several applicants to request information about why they wanted to serve on the committee, what they had to offer the group and the LOTT Board, and what they hoped to learn. Several were able to respond on short notice.
Holly Gadbaw
A former elected official, Holly Gadbaw, was the first to respond:

“I served on the LOTT Advisory Committee, later the Alliance, for 15 years. I was part of making the decisions on the treatment systems used at LOTT today, the agreement to form the Alliance, and the components of the highly managed plan. I was knowledgeable about the science that was the basis of these decisions. However, it has been 10 years since I have delved into the science on which managing wastewater treatment should be based, and would appreciate the opportunity to bring my knowledge on the subject up-to-date.”
In her application, Gadbaw said she also pointed out that she thought that she had experience that would benefit the group:

“I served on the Olympia City Council for 19 years, was a member and chair at various times of the LOTT Advisory Committee and Thurston Regional Planning Council for 15 years, chaired Olympia’s Land Use Committee, served on the County’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee, served on Intercity Transit’s (IT) Advisory Committee (after I left the Council) and was involved in reviewing and approving several comprehensive plans, shoreline management plans, utility plans, and economic development plans. At the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED), I oversaw the development of a series of guidebooks on growth management issues, including economic development. As a Hearings Board member, I have reviewed and written decisions on comprehensive plans’, including utility plans’ compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA). I am certified as a senior mediator with the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), and am a longtime member of the Heritage Park Board.”
Gadbaw said she was interested in the study because “decisions on future sewage treatment and decisions about regulations to protect our aquifers will be informed by this study.”

Emily Lardner

Applicant Emily Lardner of Olympia is a faculty member at The Evergreen State College. She responded:
"Ground water matters to me because it matters for all of us, and decisions we make today affect not only our health, but the health of future generations. The nature of groundwater requires that we act as good stewards. At the same time, LOTT has to find places to put reclaimed water which may include recharging aquifers. The intersection of these two issues—finding places to put reclaimed water and keeping groundwater clean for future generations—is at the heart of this advisory committee’s work."

Lardner also said that because she served on the Utilities Advisory Committee for the city for several years, and now serves on the Thurston County Storm and Surface Water Board, she felt she had some background knowledge that would be helpful.
She added, “I am very keen to see how the work of this group unfolds.”
Karen Janowitz
Karen Janowitz is a Program Coordinator at the Washington State University (WSU) Energy Program. She has over 20 years of experience in project leadership and management, facilitation, small group skills, environmental education, communications and administration. Janowitz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in geology from the University of Colorado and a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) from The Evergreen State College.
In her response to Little Hollywood, Janowitz said, “I’m very interested in water issues, both in the natural and built environments. I focused on watersheds, riparian areas, and land use when I got my MES, and worked for many years in water resources at WSU Thurston County Extension. There, I ran a water resource education program for real estate professionals (teaching them issues from wetlands and woodlands to septics and low-impact development, among others), and facilitated the EETAC (Environmental Education Technical Advisory Committee) group.”
Janowitz added, “I’ve got an analytical and scientific mind, I’m community oriented, and have a good idea of how politics work in the region, all factors why I feel that I can contribute to the LOTT study group. I’m also excited to be involved in water issues again since I now work on energy issues.”

Ruth Shearer
Ruth Shearer of Lacey is a retired registered nurse and toxicologist with a Ph.D. in Genetics, and author of a book, Adventures in Seeking Environmental Justice in the 1980s, published in 2010. She is active with a variety of community organizations, including the Panorama Democratic Study Group, which hosts a monthly speaker series on the Panorama campus in Lacey. She also serves on the City of Lacey Planning Commission.
Asked why she wanted to serve on LOTT’s groundwater community advisory group committee, she said she was very concerned about drugs and other compounds of emerging concern in our reclaimed water system. She said she will be an inquisitive group member.

“I want to serve to find out whether and how toxic chemicals in wastewater are removed in the process of making class A reclaimed water. For at least four years I have helped lobby the legislature for passage of the Secure Medicine Return bill to keep drugs out of wastewater and leachate, and we still haven't been able to pass it. Big Pharma fights it tooth and nail. They would have to pay for it, between 1 and 2 cents per bottle. They can easily afford it, but know it would set a precedent for other states. I don't want drugs and other toxic chemicals in reclaimed water used for groundwater recharge, or even for irrigation, since pets, birds and squirrels may drink from the puddles.”

“I'm also interested in the depth and quality of soil between recharge sources and the aquifers. I guess I am interested in all aspects of the study, including the qualifications and independence of the study contractor.”
For more information about the study and the community advisory group, contact Lisa Dennis-Perez, Public Communications Manager, at or (360) 528-5719.
More articles about the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, and compounds of emerging concern can be found at, using the search button.

Above: Newly-appointed LOTT Clean Water Alliance Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study group member Ruth Shearer, above, introducing Washington State then-candidate for governor Jay Inslee at a Panorama Democratic Study Group event in early October.