by Doug Mah, Doug Mah & Associates, Thurston Chamber Public Policy Director
Each year, the Public Policy Division of the Thurston Chamber convenes the Shared Legislative Partnership. The Partnership works to advance regional priorities for the upcoming State Legislative session. These priorities, when approved, will provide multiple and broad benefits to the entire region due to the significant scope and impact across and between entities. The list of regional priorities for 2023 includes:
Young Child & Family Center –
North Thurston Public Schools
High-quality early learning and recreation programs are critical factors in healthy communities. By expanding access to these programs in an area where they are needed most, this project shifts the trajectory of our community. It impacts overall health, educational attainment, and economic prosperity across our region.
Combining an early learning center with public recreation, this 70,000 square foot facility will provide developmentally appropriate activities for youth ages 3-5 and their families, while increasing community access to critical early learning resources in an area with extremely limited childcare options. Project partners include North Thurston Public Schools, South Sound YMCA, City of Lacey, Thurston EDC, and Thurston County Chamber. This funding request will ensure architectural and engineering services (start to finish) for the proposed Young Child & Family Center on property owned by North Thurston Public Schools.
Capital Budget Request – $6,200,000
Budd Inlet Remediation & Restoration –
Port of Olympia
The Port of Olympia is proposing to become the “Working Party” to lead the design and implementation of remediation and habitat restoration efforts in lower Budd Inlet. These efforts will clear the way for the implementation of the preferred alternative for the Capitol Lake/Deschutes Estuary Long Term Management Plan, which had been identified as the Estuary Alternative. The Port of Olympia (along with others) is a named Potentially Liable Party under the State Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). The Port signed an Agreed Order with the Department of Ecology in 2012 to investigate the extent of the contamination and develop remediation strategies.
The Port started the contamination investigation and remedy selection work and has approved contracts to complete this work by June 2023. In addition, there is significant shoaling in the navigation channel and turning basin in Budd Inlet. Many of the vessels calling at the Port of Olympia have to time their arrival or departure to ensure sufficient draft. However, the navigation channel is a federal asset managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps cannot expend Federally appropriated funds within a Washington State MTCA site. This investment will help to fund the design of this project to incorporate multiple stakeholders’ objectives and position it for additional Federal resources to balance the environmental restoration goals with commerce and economic development.
Capital Budget Request – $3,800,000
Gopher Mitigation/Economic Development Funding –
Tumwater, Yelm, and Port of Olympia
Significant parts of the Cities of Tumwater and Yelm have been removed from development for housing, employment, schools, State facilities and utilities as a result of the listing of several prairie species (most notably the Mazama Pocket Gopher) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Cities of Tumwater and Olympia, along with the Port of Olympia, are working to develop Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) that identify the type and amount of mitigation land to be set-aside for gopher mitigation banking. The bank allows private and public development to occur in areas within the cities where development has been halted because of habitat impacts.
The amount of land needed for Tumwater is estimated at 1,015 acres at a cost of over $55 million over 30 years including the cost to establish and maintain the appropriate prairie land. Tumwater and the Port of Olympia are approximately 12 months away from completion of their HCP but need to demonstrate commitment to obtaining and developing mitigation prior to completion of the HCP. The City of Yelm is beginning to develop a Habit Conservation Plan that will require them to acquire land for a mitigation bank before development can happen in impacted areas. They also need to demonstrate a commitment to acquiring land and developing mitigation. We are requesting $2.5 million in funding for Tumwater and $1.5 million for Yelm to initiate the mitigation bank. It would be used for the initial land purchase and improvement into qualifying habitat. As other property is developed which impacts the habitat, credits will be sold and the proceeds reinvested in more property to be converted into mitigation. The objective in both Cities is to jump-start the creation of a sustaining mitigation bank.
Capital Budget Request – $3,800,000
Local Grain Conveyance and Storage System –
Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC)
The Craft District in Tumwater is developing into a flagship location that champions Thurston & Lewis Counties rich heritage in craft brewing and distilling and advances craft beverage and agricultural interests in the State. The district is the first of its kind with a unique mix of public, private, and educational stakeholders. The district provides regional accessible tasting rooms, brewing and distilling facilities, quality assurance laboratories, and classrooms. The district partners seek to support grain and malt handling of locally grown ingredients for beverage manufacturing. The planned grain conveyance and storage system silo has multiple compartments so that partners can store a wide array of ingredients grown in Washington State. This grain system is a key component supporting regional efforts to build a regional-scale grain supply chain that can offset disruptions, make our region more resilient, and provide a new and valuable market for regional farmers. Thurston County is designated as Washington State’s Craft Brewing, Distilling and Cider Making Innovative Partnership Zone (IPZ). This project meets the core objectives of the IPZ and furthers the goals to develop an industry through industry support, research, and workforce training. Project enhancing equipment, including a Local Grain Conveyance and Storage System, will further differentiate this unique and innovative district.
Capital Budget Request – $247,200