Saturday, February 27, 2016

Old Brewhouse Planned Action Decision Postponed until March 15

Above: The historic Old Brewhouse sits near the Deschutes River in Tumwater. Aerial photo taken in late December 2014. The presence of a proposed 1,000 vehicle parking structure located behind the brewery would wipe out the treed hillside containing legendary artesian springs, and its height could dwarf or wall off views to and from the historic Schmidt House, seen at upper right.

By Janine Gates

A public hearing by the Tumwater City Council on a proposed mixed use planned action ordinance for the 32 acre area around the historic, regionally beloved Old Brewhouse was held February 16.  Due to the illness and absence of three councilmembers, no action was taken.  

A follow up work session was held February 23. Another work session on the issue is scheduled for March 8 at 5:30 p.m.,Tumwater Fire Department training room, on Israel Road. Public comment is not allowed at work sessions.

The subject has been placed on the Tumwater city council agenda for consideration at their March 15th meeting at Tumwater City Hall. That meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

Public Hearing

Kicking off the discussion on February 16, several members of the public and property owner George Heidgerken addressed the council.

Among three land use scenarios, Heidgerken and his project manager, Jon Potter, desire a full build out of the property to include housing and a 1,000 vehicle parking garage. 

The proposed garage would be several stories high and built into the hillside that contains the legendary “It’s the Water” artesian springs that attracted Adolf Schmidt in 1895 to build his brewery on the shore of the Deschutes River.  The brick brewhouse tower that is the symbol of Tumwater was built in 1906.

Potter said that the planned action final environmental impact statement was well written.

“There is a level of development that’s necessary in order to do the restoration work and get the financing necessary to do the restoration that we all want to occur on that site to bring it back to its original grandeur. That build out scenario is necessary in order for us to achieve that goal,” said Potter.

Councilmember Joan Cathey said her research indicates that eight out of ten planned actions used statewide were disastrous to the environment.

“This is giving - deciding - what we’re going to allow when we don’t even know what it is….I feel really emotional about this…this does not seem like the place for density when you can’t even get a vehicle down the hill,” said Cathey, who added that she couldn’t even imagine a 1,000 vehicle garage behind the Old Brewhouse.

The exact height of the garage is undetermined.

When Cathey asked Mayor Pete Kmet when it was decided as a city that this was going to be a planned action, Kmet did not directly respond, but said that this is the first time it’s ever been done in Tumwater.

Chris Carlson, city planner and permit manager, said that the intent of a planned action is to have a detailed environmental analysis conducted ahead of time to streamline the permit review process and is more often used in subarea plans. 

Developers like planned actions because they reduce the overall costs for the project and provide predictability in the process. 

A key sticking point for environmentalists is that planned actions are not subject to State Environmental Policy Act appeal procedures. Their use essentially reduces or eliminates the possibility of legal challenges to individual projects within a study area.

Councilmember Nicole Hill expressed concern that there was nothing in the ordinance that would prevent the owner, George Heidgerken, from destroying the iconic tower.

“I was expecting to see how the tower would be protected and restored…I want assurances for the community,” said Hill, who also mentioned the need for public access and trails.

Councilmembers expressed the importance of balance between restoration of the Old Brewhouse and new development, noting that the tower is deteriorating by the day.

Councilmember Tom Oliva said he is in favor of the full build out scenario and expressed confidence that Heidgerken can develop the property with sensitivity. 

Councilmember Eileen Swarthout agreed with Oliva and thought the council could craft a vision in a way that would be pleasing to the public.

Carlson said the ordinance could be reworked. After extended discussion about how the public could weigh in, Carlson suggested that the council could have another public hearing. That possibility was left up in the air.

In a surprise, rambling comment, Heidgerken mentioned that he is in conversations with the city to donate the tower to the city.

“…That probably will happen because it’s the right thing to do. On projects like this, you’ve got to do a lot of that ‘right thing to do stuff’ because projects like this add up very quickly….Projects like this can take up $150 million in no time at all and you don’t know when you start these things that that’s going to happen….The old Custer building (the RST Cellars building) in a lot of ways looks like hell. It’s a building that needs to stay. It needs to look like it fits in – that means brick it….If we don’t make this site look good…we’re going to darn well wish we did when we’re done, and our intentions are to do that….” said Heidgerken.

Neither councilmembers nor staff elaborated about these conversations with Heidgerken.

In October 2014, the City of Tumwater issued a stop work order at the site after Heidgerken was found to be illegally filling in wetlands and grading a road at the site without permits. Heidgerken has a history of committing environmental offenses.

The stop work order was lifted when Heidgerken was issued a permit in September 2015 to begin groundwater monitoring. The permit allows his company to place 644 cubic yards of fill in the vicinity of the southeast corner of the Old Brewhouse building. Groundwater monitoring is required as part of soil remediation work associated with a paint shop that was formerly in this area.

Heidgerken has yet to start work, said city staff.

Above: The six story Old Brewery tower is in severe disrepair. Several areas are roofless and exposed to the elements. Photo taken from within the tower in October 2014.

Discussion Continued at February 23 Council Work Session 

The conversation continued at a council work session Tuesday evening. At both the February 16 and 23 meetings, the written comments by Tumwater resident Nancy Partlow were mentioned by councilmembers. 

“I see very little in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) that reflects an imaginative or creative vision for redevelopment of Tumwater’s most iconic site.  What’s being proposed are the same highly impactful, highly engineered solutions to perceived problems that would be proposed for any other property in the city. There is nothing here that acknowledges, honors, or works with the very special cultural, historical, or natural features of the area,” wrote Partlow.

“What would these buildings look like on-site and in relation to the current buildings? How would the currently-treed hillside south of the Old Brewhouse buildings and north of the Schmidt Mansion change in appearance with the building of a parking garage, condos and a new access road? How would the view north from the Schmidt Mansion site be impacted by a parking garage being built on the hillside below?  Would the roof of the new structure dominate the foreground of the view?   

“To say that the loss of the hillside trees, which are growing in highly challenging circumstances on steep slopes and rocky substrate, can be mitigated by Tumwater’s Tree Protection Ordinance, or the forest restored in any meaningful way or length of time, is highly questionable….These hillside springs and seeps have been a natural feature of this site from time immemorial. It was this fresh water that drew Adolf Schmidt to the site to make his beer. They are also an important component of Tumwater’s nearshore environment. 

“I ask the council to deeply ponder whether the mitigations proposed in the Final EIS are sufficient to counterbalance the substantial impacts an urban-intensity development would have on that older site history, and upon the beautiful, quiet natural area that currently exists,” wrote Partlow.

Sharron Coontz attended Tuesday night’s work session about the Planned Action EIS and submitted written comment to the mayor. 

“A Planned Action EIS is a dangerous tool. It allows the developer incredible flexibility.  After the project is underway, changes can be made that have environmental impacts never considered in the original EIS.  Developers in the past have stated that these changes are covered since they’re working under the aegis of a Planned Action EIS.  Hearing examiners have upheld that claim,” wrote Coontz.

“It completely negates the rights of citizens. If no one appealed the original Planned Action EIS, seeing no serious danger listed in the environmental impact section, then hearing examiners have said that none of the individual projects can be appealed as they arise. Changes can be made to the original project and citizens are helpless, with no legal recourse.

“We’re discussing an iconic, historic site, important to many of us who, like my family, have generations-long roots in the area….No developer should be given the leeway allowed in a Planned Action EIS, and certainly not one with Mr. Heidgerken’s track record,” wrote Coontz.

Speaking of flexibility, city staffer Chris Carlson said that, indeed, the specific uses identified within the planned action area, such as the proposed condominiums and restaurants, could be switched around within the footprint of the site.

Discussion centered on the size of the proposed 1,000 vehicle parking structure. Councilmember Nicole Hill said that the tower should be the centerpiece and the design of the garage would seem to overshadow the tower’s appearance.

Mayor Kmet and Councilmember Hill asked staff to reorganize the documents comments in a searchable format that allows councilmembers and the public to better read the impacts and the proposed mitigations.

To see the final planned action environmental impact statement, go to To search the document, save it to your desktop or other preferred folder and then open it up with Adobe Reader and search. For more information, contact Chris Carlson, City of Tumwater, (360) 754-4180 or The proposed ordinance is No. O2016-003.

Editor's Correction, February 28: The following quote should have been attributed to Nancy Partlow, not Sharron Coontz: 

“....The developer should work with the site’s natural elements to make this project not only environmentally and ecologically 'sensitive' but a model to others for how it can be done. This is an opportunity to do things differently, in a truly special and unique way. I am not seeing that in this document.

For past stories about Tumwater, the three planned action land use alternatives for the Old Brewhouse property, George Heidgerken, the stop work order in 2014 and related stories and photos, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search engine.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Olympia High School Property Vandalized with Racially Biased Graffiti

Above: Colorful rocks at Olympia High School are usually spray painted with positive messages, like above, but on Saturday night, were defaced with racially biased messages. 

By Janine Gates

The frequently spray painted, brightly colored rocks by the bus loading zone off Carlyon Street at Olympia High School is a place for positive messages, but on Saturday night, someone defaced one of the rocks with profanity and racially biased messages of hate.

Little Hollywood is choosing not to publish pictures of those words.

Olympia High School principal Matt Grant said that when he heard about the situation on Saturday night, he made sure the graffiti was removed and replaced with supportive messages for students of color. Mr. Grant called the police and asked them to keep an eye on the rocks. 

“Olympia High School does not tolerate hate. The words that defaced the rock are not, and will never be, reflective of our ideals as a community,” said Grant on Monday.

“The fact that people in this community felt that this language was acceptable tells us that we at Olympia High School have work to do in helping every single one of us understand why statements like those made last weekend are not tolerable in our community.

“But our words today are not enough. We will have to show...that we mean what we say through our actions, through more learning opportunities, and through the conversations we will have over the next few weeks, months, and even years to come,” Grant said in his message to the school community.

The school will share information with staff and students about a community forum on March 2 at Capital High School from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in the Commons at Capital High School. The event is open to the public and sponsored by the Black Alliance of Thurston County, in cooperation with the Olympia Police Department.

Grant also said that the school will have a student-led forum about race on March 4, develop a committee to make sure school curriculum represents people and ideas from all cultures, and plan for additional professional development opportunities and diversity training so faculty are better equipped to address concerns and issues that emerge about race.

“Every one of us in this community is going to have to dig as deeply as we can to commit to the difficult work ahead of repairing the pain and hurt that racism has caused in this community,” said Grant. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

City Committee Holds Final Forum on Body Cameras

Above: The Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations held its final community forum on Thursday night, this one on the topic of body cameras, at Olympia City Hall. The group has held five forums, each reaching out to different segments of the community to discuss local police issues. It is expected to end its work in April.

By Janine Gates

Will police worn body cameras help develop community trust and transparency? Or will they add more problems than solutions?

Those were just two of many questions for the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations as it held its final forum Thursday night at Olympia City Hall. About 40 people were in attendance, which included committee members and city staff. Olympia Councilmember Nathaniel Jones observed the forum in its entirety.

The city presentation by Laura Wohl, administrative services division manager for the Olympia Police Department was a re-run of the presentation provided to committee members on January 27.

See Little Hollywood’s January 28 story about that meeting at

Wohl has spent the last five years studying the topic for the department and provided an overview of the policy issues and costs regarding the technology. The estimated annual cost for the program would be about $472,000, a conservative figure, she said.

Police worn body camera recordings are currently public records subject to the state Public Records Act and present a whole host of privacy issues, especially for juveniles, crime victims, and witnesses to crimes.

As anticipated, by the time staff finished their presentation, community members were weary.

Despite the best efforts of Reiko Callner, co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and a former City of Olympia prosecutor, the group struggled to understand and adhere to her line of questioning to only discuss developing a process to receive input about issues related to police body worn cameras.

The word “process” was bolded seven times on the agenda.

Some new faces left without speaking, and those that did stay were not united in the city’s stated commitment to use police worn body cameras. The city has stated in part that it intends to move forward with police worn body cameras when it develops plans, policies and revenues that will ensure the program is successful.

“After listening to what was presented, what is the bottom line, and what is the best way to get to it? Maybe it isn’t body cameras…we should think about what are other ways to develop trust and transparency. Body cameras may not be the solution. Let’s rethink this….” urged Charlotte Petty, pastor of Risen Faith Church.

Nevertheless, seven pages of questions and ideas were generated on an easel pad about how to reach the most marginalized people who should be included in the process, whatever that process is: 

Working through advocates and organizations, speak with people who have cases in court, victims of crime, people who perpetrate crime due to addiction, and those who live in apartments. Using volunteer resources, reach people where they already gather such as neighborhood associations, schools, libraries, bus stops, Capital Mall, the senior center, and hospitals.

In general, the group asked the committee to table a deeper discussion on the issue of body cameras until a process is best identified to capture the entire community.

One forum participant was Tom Nogler, a retired mental health counselor, and volunteer with COPWATCH, a local advocacy group that meets to give support to people who have had encounters with the police. A volunteer is available to listen and write up a narrative of the experience at Traditions on Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

A couple of months ago, Nogler said about 30 participants came together to discuss what they would like to see in local community policing. Police worn body cameras did not come up.

“Nobody brought that out as an idea because body cameras are just a small piece of the picture. It’s not like once we get them, peace and justice will prevail,” he said.

What was on their list was the creation of a citizen’s bill of rights, activism on judicial issues, voter initiatives and legislation, empowering people to take a stand on police misconduct, restorative justice, watching court cases needing support, and the creation of an independent citizen’s review board.

Some asked the City of Olympia to take a position on ESHB 2908, a bill that would create a joint legislative task force to review current state laws, practices and policies regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement. That bill passed out of the Washington State House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon and is now in the Senate. 

The bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 8:00 a.m. in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice, Senate Hearing Room 4, Cherberg Building.

A bill that the City of Olympia did support but did not make it out of Rules would exempt police worn body camera recordings to the extent they violate someone’s right to privacy. See Little Hollywood’s January 28 story about that legislation at

Olympia Police Department Lieutenant Aaron Jelcick said that each community needs to tailor its process to meet community expectations for openness, transparency and inclusiveness.

He said that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States are using body cameras in some form.

Twelve law enforcement agencies in Washington State are currently using or have tried using body cameras, but some have dropped out. The agencies that did not do community outreach, such as the Poulsbo, Bremerton, and Pullman police departments, have had to modify their procedures several times to meet community and law enforcement expectations.

“Body camera videos are not like an episode of COPS where you can see and hear everything clearly,” he said.

One woman said that body cameras are just one tool for community policing.

“In our culture, we like quick fixes…but we have to develop relationships,” she said.

The Ad Hoc Committee has two more meetings, and then will tentatively report its findings on its work to the city council on April 12, 5:30 p.m. at Olympia City Hall.

For more information about the committee, go to

For past stories about the Ad Hoc Committee, the Olympia Police Department, community policing issues, body cameras, ESHB 2907, HB 2907, Scott Yoos, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, and the Black Alliance of Thurston County, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.

To track state legislation, go to - Hearings are subject to change without much notice. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Deadly Force by Law Enforcement Bill Passes House

Above: Washington State Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32) sits in the House Floor Chamber just before 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The House convened at 9:00 a.m., but immediately adjourned to caucus. Ryu prime sponsored HB 2908 that would create a task force to review current laws, practices and policies regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement. The bill passed out of the Washington State House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon on a 98-0 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

By Janine Gates

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2908, which will create a task force to review current laws, practices and policies regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement, passed out of the Washington State House of Representatives on Tuesday on a 98-0 vote.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Cindy Ryu (pronounced Ree-oo), (D-32), creates a joint legislative task force on the use of deadly force in community policing.

Parts of HB 2907, a bill written and promoted by the Black Alliance of Thurston County, were rolled into Ryu's bill on February 5 in the House Public Safety Committee. 

As the bill continued on its journey to the floor, amendments were added to refine the membership of the task force. As a result, representatives of the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, the Latino Civic Alliance, the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs, and liberty organizations were added.

“We are one step closer to creating a statewide culture that garners public trust, honors the role of law enforcement to justifiably maintain public safety, and creates accountability when they unnecessarily cross this line. We can only pray that our Senators value these same principles and pass this bill," said Dr. Karen A. Johnson, chair and co-founder of the Black Alliance of Thurston County.

ESHB 2908 will create a task force with a broad coalition including legislators, law enforcement, representatives from the criminal justice system, and members of advocacy organizations.

The task force will meet at least four times in 2016 and review current laws, practices and training programs regarding the use of deadly force, look at alternatives, and submit recommendations on what changes should be made to provide better protection for community members and law enforcement.

Speaking in support of the bill, Representative Brad Klippert, (R-8), thanked Representative Ryu, and law enforcement officers for their service.

“….I sincerely want to thank each and every one of my brothers and sisters who serve us in our communities and keep us safe….It's an extremely tough job that unless you've walked a mile in those shoes, you'll never understand the split-second decisions that they have to make over and over and over again. Obviously we always want to treat our citizens with fairness, with transparency, and with reasonableness….This is a good, reasonable bill….We want to have the best law enforcement agencies in the world right here in Washington State. I think we already have that, but if we can make it better, we want to do that….” said Klippert.

Representative Sam Hunt (D-22) extended his appreciation to the Black Alliance of Thurston County for all their efforts.

Tuesday was the last day bills could be heard in their house of origin. The bill now goes to the Senate.


The Olympia Police Department and Black Alliance of Thurston County invites the community to gather on Wednesday, March 2 from 6:00 p.m. - 9 p.m. in the Commons at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Avenue NW, Olympia, to engage each other in conversation around institutional and structural racism.

“If you choose to attend, we will invite you to engage in conversations that create ownership, evoke commitment, value dissent, and treat each person as the gift they are. We will create awareness about what institutional and structural racism mean and, then, invite a few people to speak about their own experience, acting on the well-being of the whole community. You will be asked to engage in active listening as these brave souls tell their story. After the stories are told, we will invite you to contribute to conversations about the larger communal possibilities that have the potential to shift our collective experience,” said Karen Johnson in a press release.

For more information about community conversations about racism, the Olympia Police Department, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, Karen Johnson, the City of Olympia’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, body cameras, HB 2907 and HB 2908, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Olympia Community Responds to City Sea Level Rise Report

Above: A high tide laps at the back door of Bayview Thriftway in downtown Olympia on December 18, 2015. Percival Landing is seen on the right. The tide was 16.2 feet at 10:13 a.m., just about the time this picture was taken.

Community Members Offer Sea Level Rise Comments, Solutions

By Janine Gates

The underlying message by City of Olympia public works staff to city leaders last week, that sea level rise planning must become incorporated into responsible community conversations and downtown land use decisions, seemed to take councilmembers by surprise.

After all, the message was in conflict with the fact that the council has moved forward on multiple downtown development projects in precisely the area destined to be first impacted by sea level rise.

Disregarding past reports and persistent community voices, the city embraced the massive 123 4th Avenue housing project, and allocated $250,000 to form a downtown strategy. That money came from 2014 year end savings and is anticipated to be adopted at the end of 2016.

To encourage new development, the city recently hired an economic development director, and is hammering out a downtown Community Renewal Area (CRA) plan. Begun in 2013, the effort now needs $40,000 more to complete its work with its legal consultant. The city also approved $35,000 for developer Walker John and his company, Urban Olympia, to scope out a plan of work for the aptly named Water Street Redevelopment Area.

The total CRA budget revised for 2016: $342,500.

In an oral staff report provided to the city’s Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC) on February 8, it was noted that the same developer is moving quickly in his efforts to develop the parcels owned by the Port of Olympia bordering State and Cherry Street, across from the Hands On Children’s Museum. Concept plans have already been drawn up by architect Ron Thomas.

As the council subcommittee bantered around their work plan goals, questioned whether or not a CRA is really needed given the fact that the economy is moving, and welcomed the planning of two developer roundtable discussions specific to the downtown strategy by the end of March, the words “sea level rise” were never spoken.

Above: Walking along Percival Landing near Sylvester Street on December 18, 2015, electrical boxes and lighting components behind the Oyster House are clearly submerged by Budd Inlet. The tide was 16.2 feet at the time this picture was taken. 

Community Efforts and Responses to Sea Level Rise Report

Given downtown Olympia’s proximity to Budd Inlet, the sheer amount of engineering that needs to occur to prepare downtown Olympia for climate change and sea level rise is almost unimaginable.

But some South Sounders have offered their expertise, thoughts, and solutions on the matter for years.

Following the sea level rise report delivered by staff to Olympia city council on February 9, community member and economist Jim Lazar issued a few ideas during public comment period.

“Aberdeen and Hoquiam require all new buildings in their downtown areas to mound up their building sites at least three feet. We can do that here. Some people have said that we will not abandon downtown. If that’s what you believe, start budgeting like you mean it. The engineered response to sea level rise will cost tens of millions of dollars.”

Saying he was the part owner of a downtown business, he requested that the council poll downtown business owners to see if they were willing to approve a two million per year local improvement district or diking district levy to start paying for this.

“…But if the owners of these buildings are not willing to invest what it will cost to protect their investment, maybe that tells us something. If asked…I would vote no unless there was some certainty that a long-term plan was in place, adequately funded, and likely to succeed. A reasonable plan would be to impose a development moratorium on the low-lying parts of downtown until a plan is perfected, and funding is assured,” said Lazar.

Community member Daniel Einstein immediately submitted a letter to councilmembers, taking issue with staff comments that without the dam, the lake would flood more frequently.

“An important question is, how do we translate those 2007 Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan (CLAMP) report findings ten years down the road when sea-level rise must now be considered inevitable? There is no perfect translation of course, but here are a few things to consider,” he wrote.

“First, as sea-level rises, the 5th Avenue dam will become inoperable. Tides will flow back into the basin no matter what we do. In other words, given the forecasts…the dam will not be relevant. Second, a lot has changed from a regulatory point of view since the dam was constructed. There is no way a new, higher dam would ever be permitted, even if it could be engineered.”

“An additional point to be considered is that the lake is filling up rapidly with sediment. As it does, its capacity to hold water decreases making flooding more likely. This was the Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study’s (DEFS) conclusion. If the estuary were restored there would be more capacity for the rising sea - more room for the waters to flow.  As it is now, there is no depth in the “lake” and a dam plugging up the system. However, when the DEFS was done sea-level rise was a less thought of phenomenon….

“I do believe this is an issue that we should look into further as we decide what and where to protect and how to pay for it. It is also something to consider as we decide the future of the isthmus,” wrote Einstein.

Sue Patnude of the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT), a local nonprofit, also weighed in:

“....The lake is getting shallower and shallower, eliminating its capacity to hold water, and the dam is in disrepair. Constant repair and money will be needed to monitor the ability of the dam to function in the future. It is old, and should it fail in a closed position, flooding will be inevitable.”   

Patnude said the state Department of Enterprise Services (DES) has proposed $500,000 in its capital budget for routine inspections of the dam and upgrades to the service life of the facility within the resources provided. The dam was built in 1951.

Above: Roger Horn stands on Percival Landing near Bayview Market on December 18, 2015. The tide, at the time this picture was taken, was 16.2 feet. The high tide for December was 16.4 feet. Percival Landing was constructed in three phases in the 1970s and 1980s.

Upon hearing the report, Roger Horn, a former, longtime member of Olympia’s Planning Commission, became concerned about whether or not the 30 foot setback as stated in the city’s new Shoreline Master Plan is going to be enough for new construction.

“In terms of possible solutions, I’d prefer on-shore berms to bulkheads or seawalls….The first thing that came to my mind was the Percival Landing replacement project and how that project will address sea level rise since super high tides already come within inches of businesses at Fourth and Water Street,” he told Little Hollywood.

Phase two improvements for Percival Landing are slated for the area around Water Street and the Oyster House restaurant, near The Kiss statue. To ensure continued progress towards the replacement of Percival Landing, the city’s current capital facilities plan budgets $199,000 for design efforts, to be spent in 2016. Actual initiation of the project is not scheduled to occur for several years.

TCAT Survey Reveals Possible Local Solutions

Another non-profit, the Thurston Climate Action Team (TCAT), recognized the risk of sea level rise to the city, and inventoried greenhouse gas emissions in Thurston County and its cities.

Recently, TCAT led a detailed survey of attitudes within the county on energy and climate change and the willingness to address it financially.

One survey question asked, “If nothing is done to reduce global climate change, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for Thurston County—very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?”

Combining the “very serious” and “serious” responses, 76 percent of respondents believed there will be serious local consequences for not addressing climate change.

Respondents were asked about their willingness to personally contribute money for renewable energy and energy conservation projects and what kind of taxing mechanism they would prefer for financing those efforts. Dollar ranges were provided as options. 

Over 75 percent of respondents indicated they were willing to pay something to promote renewable energy and energy conservation, and a solid majority, nearly 69 percent, were willing to pay at least $10 per year.

Another surprising result was the number of people willing to pay over $60 per year. Among those willing to contribute, the highest number, nearly 22 percent, indicated they would pay over $120 per year. To generate those revenues, nearly 63 percent mentioned they would support a tax increase of some sort.

“This creates an opportunity for local governments (county, city, PUD, Port and others) to coordinate a county wide effort to encourage and incentivize the use of clean energy. A reasonable next step toward creating a county-wide clean energy program would be a collaborative design effort led by local government, completed in a relatively short period of time,” says the report.

The report was completed in September 2015 with financial support from Thurston County and LOTT Clean Water Alliance and faculty participation by The Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University, and South Puget Sound Community College.

Tom Crawford, vice president of TCAT, is leading the Climate and Clean Energy Work Group within Thurston Thrives. Thurston Thrives is the county Board of Health's initiative to engage the community in taking action to improve the health of Thurston County's population. The environment is one of the nine key areas. 

“These survey products become resources to form a solid foundation for local solutions,” said Graeme Sackrison, former mayor of Lacey and board chair of TCAT.


For more information about the City of Olympia's Downtown Strategy, go to On Saturday, February 20, 2016, 9:30 a.m. - noon, at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia Street NW, the city is sponsoring a workshop to evaluate downtown strategy proposals about the mix and areas of emphasis for downtown residential, retail, entertainment, and more. All this planning takes on a new meaning in light of the sea level rise report.

Community Discussion of Climate Crisis Actions, Sunday, February 21, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m, United Churches, Fireside Room, 11th Avenue SE, Olympia. The event is sponsored by the Olympia FOR Climate Crisis group, who welcomes new people to the movement to address climate change.

For more information about Thurston Thrives, go to Its next meeting is February 29, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00.p.m., Thurston County Courthouse. 

For more information about the Thurston Climate Action Team’s work, go to

For past stories about the City of Olympia's sea level rise report, Capitol Lake, high tide pictures in 2010 and 2012 around Percival Landing, the Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC), and more, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Olympia Grapples with Flood Management, Sea Level Rise

Above: Under a surly afternoon sky, City of Olympia and Washington State Department of Enterprise Services staff were on flood watch and ready with sandbags at Capitol Lake in the late afternoon of December 10, 2015. “It’s a bit of a dance,” said Andy Haub, City of Olympia director of water resources, of the flood management process and roles played by the city and state.

City Staff Clarify Statement That Dam is Needed to Control Downtown Flooding

By Janine Gates

The stunningly frank sea level rise report delivered by city public works staff to Olympia councilmembers earlier this week was loud and clear: develop a vision and a plan to begin adapting to sea level rise. Like, now.

But even without the extra burden of sea level rise, the protocol for managing current flood events in downtown Olympia requires a highly managed rapid response involving state and local agency coordination.

Above: When the lake gets too high, the city stormwater system backs up. A valve, located under Water Street, is shut off, preventing lake water from flowing “up” the stormwater outlet to the lake and discharging to the catch basin in the streets at Columbia and Water Street. A pump takes the stormwater and puts it into the lake.

The Department of Enterprise Services (DES), the state agency responsible for managing the 260 acre lake, regularly releases as much water through the 5th Avenue dam as each low tide allows.

DES closely monitors weather forecasts, streamflow on the Deschutes River, tide tables and more to determine when to lower the lake below the normal winter level in advance of major storms.

On December 10, 2015, a combination of record-setting rainfall, flooding on the Deschutes River and high tides in Puget Sound caused flooding around Capitol Lake and Heritage Park. So, when DES staff determined that the lake was going to flood, the department notified the City of Olympia and closed a section of Water Street and 7th Avenue.

The city implemented its flood response plan which includes pumping excess stormwater directly into Capitol Lake and placing sandbags in the area to protect nearby businesses.

By their own admission, city staff underestimated the rate at which the lake was rising and were later than usual in closing a valve, resulting in lake water flooding the streets and coming to within inches of the doors of Olympia Supply and other local businesses.

On December 11, 2015, the day after the somewhat minor flooding incident, Little Hollywood interviewed Andy Haub, City of Olympia director of water resources, who was onsite with staff during the emergency.

LHTell me about this valve...the water got to within four inches of Olympia Supply's doors. 
Haub: We close the valve in order to prevent lake water from flowing “up” the stormwater outlet to the lake and discharging to the catch basin in the streets at Columbia and Water. The pools of water in the streets are lake/Budd Inlet water.   Usually we close the valve before the lake starts backing up. Then, the only water we pump is precipitation from the Columbia and Water Street area. In other words, once we shut the valve in the stormwater pipe, we have to pump the upstream stormwater.

Yesterday (December 10, 2015), we underestimated the rate at which the lake was rising and so were later than usual in closing the valve. Once we started the pump, the water in the streets declined very quickly - 15 minutes….

LH: I was told that the Capitol Lake area is the lowest catch basin in downtown.

Haub: The two block area around Columbia and Water Street is the only real area that is at risk from flooding due to the lake backing up. At some point, the lake can't hold it all, so that's why DES folks were standing around (in the afternoon) waiting to see if the tide would rise too high, plus the water in the lake would make it all overflow like a bathtub. When the Deschutes is flowing very high, the State lowers the lake by opening the 5th Avenue dam during the low tide preceding the high tide. Then they close the dam when the tides turn to a high tide, thereby keeping the high tide out of the lake and providing room for the river flows. It’s a bit of a dance….

LH: Is that portable pump station always going to be down there with chain link fencing around it if it seems like this is a permanent problem area? 

Haub: We keep one of the pumps there during the peak of the winter.

Haub explained that other factors such as barometric measure, wind direction and speed, temperature, low pressure systems and the effect they have on high tides also dictate Olympia’s flooding risk.

“It’s very interesting to think about and understand. Our high tide was 1.95 feet higher than predicted, simply due to low barometric pressure. You and your audience would find this dynamic interesting….” said Haub.

LH: If this whole area reverted back to an estuary, would we even we worrying about all this?

Haub: Same dynamic.

At that point, Little Hollywood had taken up enough of Haub’s time.

Above: The valve near Capitol Lake that saves a portion of downtown from flooding. 

Fast Forward: Capitol Lake, The Dam and Flood Clarification

Along with Haub, Eric Christiansen, City of Olympia water resources planning and engineer manager, provided the staff report at last Tuesday night’s council study session on sea level rise issues.

Councilmember Jessica Bateman asked how its reverting back to an estuary would impact downtown and Christiansen responded that without the dam, downtown would flood more frequently.

This short response confused and alarmed community members active with lake management conversations.

On Thursday, Little Hollywood asked Christiansen to clarify his response to Bateman, which was in conflict with the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan’s (CLAMP) final Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study report of 2007.

The report says, in part:

“...The City of Olympia may require a FEMA-approved floodplain study as part of the permitting requirements for the proposed restoration project. However, it can be concluded that flooding in the restored estuary will be similar to current (managed lake) conditions at worst. A decided advantage of the restored estuary is that flood management will no longer depend on the correct functioning of a mechanical system – flooding under current conditions can be considerably exacerbated if the tide gate controls should fail.”

Christiansen responded:

“I maybe partially misspoke. There are a few blocks of downtown between Water and Columbia and 5th and 7th streets that are at a very low elevation, approximately two feet below the flood elevation. There are about 19 storm drain pipes that connect that area and the park with Capitol Lake. Only two of those pipes that I am aware of have valves to prevent water from flowing backward into the streets. The State manipulates the dam to keep lake levels low when tides are high, thus for the most part keeping water out of the streets. The last six to twelve inches of lake elevation make a big difference. We had about a dozen tides this winter that could have caused flooding.

“Without the dam, the drainage systems will need to be modified by adding additional valves and probably consolidating pipes. It will also help if the ground in key parts of Heritage Park is elevated. The railroad tracks pose an additional challenge,” said Christensen.

Above: The 5th Avenue dam on December 18, 2015.

In conflict with information city staff and local environmental advocates have been providing the city for years, multiple downtown development projects are underway in precisely the area destined to be first impacted by sea level rise. 

These vulnerable areas, built on fill, are well within the historic shoreline of Budd Inlet.

Next: Community Response to Sea Level Rise Report

For more information about community efforts and issues in Olympia regarding Capitol Lake, the Community and Economic Revitalization Committee, sea level rise, high tide events, CLAMP, Percival Landing, Moxlie Creek, LOTT Clean Water Alliance and more, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.