Shellfish districts propose crackdown on stormwater - County advisers' anti-pollution plan targets property owners



Thurston County, WA - Residents in the Henderson Inlet and Nisqually Reach area would see sweeping changes in how they maintain and use their property, if two shellfish protection district committees have their way.

The two groups appointed by the Thurston County Commission spent the past 15 months compiling a list of recommendations to turn back the tide of pollution, notably the fecal coliform contamination that plagues the two marine areas.

Presented to the county elected officials Thursday night, the anti-pollution strategies were strong and bold, unfettered by such possible constraints as a lack of property owner support or money to implement them.

They include:

-Requiring inspections of on-site septic systems every three years and dye tests of systems along the shoreline every six years with the costs likely born by the homeowners.

Nisqually Reach resident Greg Tolbert said failing septic systems remain the biggest threat to water quality in his area. "You don't have a right to put this pollution out on your neighbor's property," he said.

-Reducing zoning densities in sensitive areas with poorly draining soil or in close proximity to the water.

The Henderson Inlet group called for new development to retain 65 percent to 70 percent of the trees on a lot and push homes farther from the shoreline.

-Requiring low impact development in areas that drain to the marine waters as a way to curb stormwater runoff that carries bacteria.

"What we need to do is stop stormwater in the first place," said Henderson Inlet committee member and property owner Steve Langer.

"That's where low impact development comes in," Langer said.

-Beefing up enforcement of county environmental laws, including nonpoint pollution and land-clearing ordinances.

-Ensuring that commercial farms and hobby farms actually implement the best management plans they receive through the Thurston Conservation District.

The Henderson Inlet committee estimated that only 60 percent of the hobby farm plans to control livestock waste from entering streams and marine waters are being implemented.

"That may not be enough to improve water quality," Langer said.

The two 11-member committees also recommended shrinking the boundaries of the two shellfish protection districts that the state ordered the county to form in 2001 in response to commercial shellfish harvest closures.

The new districts would be limited to areas where the surface water influences water quality in the shellfish beds.

As it stands, the Henderson Inlet district is nearly 26,500 acres and home to 52,327 people, including those living in portions of Lacey and Olympia.

The Nisqually Reach is more than 18,150 acres, including the Lake St. Claire area, and has about 16,000 people.

The Henderson Inlet area is the fastest-growing, with more than 80,000 people expected by 2025.

The commissioners thanked the committees for their work and said they need time to chew on the proposals.

They might ask the merged committee to prioritize the recommendations, based on effectiveness, cost and feasibility, they said.

Commissioner Bob Macleod said he supports many of the committees' recommendations, but cautioned they would need broad public support to move forward.

Langer and others on the committee urged commissioners to take a bold position. "It's really about protecting public health," he said.

John Dodge covers the environment and energy for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5444 or


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site