Heritage Park flooding concerns ease

Deschutes: Occupy Olympia campers put on alert about high river flows Wednesday

JOHN DODGE; Staff writerNovember 24, 2011 

OLYMPIA — Flooding of Heritage Park from rain-swollen Deschutes River flows entering Capitol Lake appeared unlikely Wednesday night or over the weekend.

Earlier Wednesday, the state Department of Enterprise Services had warned campers at Occupy Olympia that their camp site could be flooded around 5 p.m., due to the high river flows and Budd Inlet high tide that reduced the agency’s ability to release water from the lake.

But a later afternoon meeting with the National Weather Service and county emergency management officials to review weather data eased concerns of a flood.

Occupy Olympia campers were prepared to move to higher ground in Heritage Park on Wednesday night if floodwaters from Capitol Lake started to encroach on their lake-side encampment, camp organizer Monte Katzenberger said.

But as high tide approached just before 3 p.m., there still was approximately 3 feet of lake capacity at the seawall near the perimeter of the campsite.

Camp organizer Alex Daye said the camp has taken a physical beating the past few days from the wind and rain associated with the first strong series of storm fronts to sweep through South Sound this fall.

“A lot of tents have been decimated by the winds and people are walking around in wet shoes and socks,” said Daye, a former emergency medical technician who helps operate a first aid tent at the camp.

There were discussions among campers earlier in the day about moving the camp off site to a drier area more protected from the elements. But that option was rejected.

“This is a political protest,” he noted. “The whole point of it is to be in the shadow of the state Capitol.”

Occupy Olympia is one of many encampments around the nation established this fall to protest Wall Street financial bail-outs and growing disparities between the wealthiest 1 percent of the nation and the rest of the population. The camp started in Sylvester Park on Oct. 15 and moved to Heritage Park next to Capitol Lake the next day.

The state Department of Enterprise Services has ordered the camp to remove the tents, but has done nothing to force the group’s hand. Valandra said the state has no plans to evict the campers from the park over the holiday weekend.

A few campers have left the site since the November storms started rolling through the region, Katzenberger said. He and other organizers estimated the camp population at about 150.

The National Weather Service reissued a flood warning for the Deschutes River mid-morning Wednesday, calling for minor flooding overnight. The Skokomish River in Mason County remained above flood stage Wednesday while the Chehalis River in Thurston Country was on a flood watch.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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