Dear City of Olympia and Thurston County,
The southwest corner of the proposed Plum Street Courthouse is about 100 feet from Moxlie Creek which lies in a long culvert underground. The stream angles away and on the northwest corner is about 250 feet from the proposed site. Depending on specifics, buffers of up to 300 feet are often required.
The specifics include things like degraded waters and endangered species. Moxlie Creek and Budd Inlet into which it flows apply on all counts.
Clean Water Act, Section 303(d), requires states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify waters not meeting state water-quality standards and to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). You may be aware of an ongoing Federal Case pertaining to Budd Inlet and its tributaries including Moxlie Creek not meeting this requirement.
The 1996 Water Resources Development Act, Section 1135, allows for decisions to apply if it is found that an already existing project, such as the Moxlie Creek culvert, has contributed to environmental degradation.
The Endangered Species Act serves as authority to regulate land use in riparian areas that provide essential habitat for threatened or endangered species including salmon. There once were and probably still are such fish in Moxlie Creek and Indian Creek, its chief tributary.
Ideally, Moxlie Creek would be daylighted. The City claims this is somewhere near impossible because:
1. Moxlie Creek and Indian Creek are entirely culverted and modified and as such lost. Actually, according to the City’s Aquatic Habitat Evaluation and Management Study, Indian Creek is 3 miles long, 14% underground and Moxlie Creek is 1.8 miles long, 36% underground. These numbers are not bad compared to most urban streams. There are long stretches of natural beauty, rare for an urban environment.
2. Removing Moxlie Creek from its half mile long culvert would cost $200 million dollars and have to be done all at once. No, It would not have to be done at once it could be done in sections. Much of the cost could be covered by restoration grants.
3. A daylighted stream would have to follow its current pathway requiring the removal of large structures. No, it could follow any pathway it wants to as long as water flows downhill.
The proposed location of this courthouse would be in the historic East Bay estuary. There’s no worse location. We’ve lost over 160 acres of tide flats, sea grass and salt marsh to fill in the historic estuary. Estuaries are important for plankton. There’s been a $40% reduction in plankton world wide. Diatoms, the largest type of phytoplankton, have declined globally more than 1 percent per year between 1998 to 2012, with significant losses occurring in the North Pacific. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. They’re a major source of atmospheric oxygen. Their cumulative fixation of carbon through primary production is the basis of oceanic food webs. Phytoplankton are the oldest and one of the biggest carbon sinks.
Sea grass and salt marsh hold fifteen times the carbon per acre as the Amazon rain forest. When coastal habitats are lost not only do they no longer capture carbon, carbon captured in the past is released. They turn from carbon sink to carbon emitter.
The Moxlie creek culvert is intertidal. The tide backs up twice each day. It’s a mix of fresh water and saltwater environments. The Living Planet Index score for freshwater populations of water dwelling animals has plummeted by 83 percent. A report from the World Wildlife Fund affirms a nearly 50% decline in marine life populations between 1970 and 2012.
In Budd Inlet, as of 2002, birds facing local extinction included: Red-necked, Horned and Western Grebes, Pelagic Cormorant, Surf Scoter, Barrows Goldeneye, Hooded, Common and Re-breasted Merganzers, Ruddy Duck, Bonaparte’s Gull and Mew and Red-winged gulls. White Winged and Black Scoters, American Wigeon, Canvasback and Rhinoceros Auklet were already considered locally extinct.. Today, 18 years later, they’re essentially gone.
I don’t know if the City and County will prevail or not. If the Westman Mill development serves as a model, some group of citizens will be foolish enough to pay the thousand dollars to appeal. The City, the County and private interests will assemble a legal team – something like six names from three different firms. The Hearing Examiner will rule that according to City Code a stream in a culvert is “not a stream” and that the appeal as such is a “collateral attack on a city ordinance”; that the arguments that the development would limit future restoration of Eastbay and Moxlie Creek are “speculative” and “do not constitute an adverse environmental impact”; and most significantly that appellants fail to demonstrate “evidence of specific and perceptible harm” to themselves or their property, that is, they lack standing. Fish, birds and orcas likewise have no legal standing.
It’s obvious what’s going here. Developers want to build this courthouse. And developers want to redevelop the location of the current courthouse. It’s a win win for them. Truth and compassion are the casualties.
I don’t know how New York got wind of Moxlie Creek. You might find this interesting: