Once again, some people are calling for the state to dredge Capitol Lake without undertaking a public process or developing a long-term management plan. The last time the state tried this, it set off a decade-long review process. As a result, in 2009 the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan (CLAMP) Steering Committee recommended the best and cheapest way to improve this important watershed: take out the Fifth Avenue dam and restore the Deschutes River estuary. Since then, little has been done and things have further deteriorated.
The Deschutes watershed, including the upstream river, the lake and Budd Inlet, violates the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality standards. Invasive species have closed the lake to the public. The dam severely degrades the watershed’s natural functions and is by far the major contributor to poor conditions in Budd Inlet.
Recent water-quality studies by the Department of Ecology reinforce the need for restoration of a free-flowing estuary. With the dam in place, Budd Inlet cannot meet water-quality standards, nor will any amount of dredging in Capitol Lake cause it to meet standards.
Damming the Deschutes River to create a lake was done with no scientific study and little understanding of the extreme harm it would eventually cause to the ecosystem. It is time to face facts and restore the estuary.