The myth of the “stinky mudflats” on a restored Deschutes Estuary (80 percent of the time and healthy)

One of the myths that defenders of Capitol Lake like to mention is the danger of ever present mud flats on a restored Capitol Lake. Obviously, they like to point out, a quiet and peaceful dammed river is much preferable to mud flats. What they don’t mention is the scientific studies that point out how untrue this is.

The recent publication by the Capitol Lake Improvement and Protection Association compared a photo of the current lake with one during the extended drawdown two years ago. That in itself is an inaccurate comparison since that drawdown took the lake to an extremely low water level for an extended period of time. Compared to the twice daily flooding of the estuary, this is a pretty unfair comparison.

From the recent edition of CLIPA’s Capitol Lake Clipper:

Also, from the CLIPA website (under “Know the Facts“):

If we stop dredging the lake and allow this sediment to be dumped into our waterfront the accumulated sediment will: Revert the lake area to stinky mud flats

On the other hand a recent study on how exactly tides would fill the estuary had this to say:

All four restoration alternatives show little to no difference in the amount of submerged or exposed lake bottom. The model predicts that the North Basin, much of the Middle Basin, and the main channel, which would reform quickly after dam removal, would be under water 80% of the time.

If  the estuary were restored, we wouldn’t be trading a beautiful lake for a muddy swamp. Rather, we’re trading a full basin that is polluted and sick for a basin that is full 80 percent of the time and is healthy.

Here is a map that shows to what percentage of time different parts of the current Capitol Lake would be underwater in a restored estuary.

Not exactly the nightmare you’re led to believe.

Here’s a photo from the Washington State Digital Archives (full size version here) showing a typical view of the Capitol Campus in the mid-1930s.

More information: Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study (Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport Modeling)

Senate Bill 5757

Tuesday, February 15th, 10AM, Senate Hearing Room 4, J.A. Cherber Building.  The Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on SB 5757.  The Squaxin Island Tribe will testify in support of the bill.

From the Squaxin perspective, the bill will provide funding to help local jurisdictions make  science-based decisions on water availability when issuing building permits under GMA (RCW 19.27,097).  Currently, if a well can pump enough water, the local jurisdiction always concludes that water is available.  This bill will help the Department of Ecology guide local jurisdictions to more science-based decisions when evaluating water availability for building permits.  If a well, particularly an exempt one, steals water from a senior instream flow right, this bill will provide for the assimilation of the kinds of data the Department of Ecology will need in order to direct the local jurisdictions to just say “no.”

So Squaxin says “yes” in support of this bill to “just say no” to most new water withdrawals!

UPDATE: Here is the public hearing, including testimony by Squaxin Island Tribe staff: