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Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team



The Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT) is organized for the restoration of the Deschutes River Watershed by reconnecting the river to its estuary and to Budd Inlet for the health of the river, the South Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.
The Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT) is working to restore the urban estuary in downtown Olympia by reconnecting the river to the Salish Sea. We are an advocacy group representing the interests of the local environment, natural systems with the services that they provide, and a community that values wildlife, water quality, economic opportunities and natural beauty. We serve as a center for a creative community-driven effort for the health of the Deschutes watershed by focusing on the most beneficial restoration project for the river: freeing it’s estuary.

In 1951, the Deschutes River was dammed at its mouth. The estuary was lost to establish a reflection pool for the State Capitol Dome. Ever since, it has been filling with sediment from the river and becoming shallower every day. Because of its size and shape, it has poor circulation and the water is stagnant. What began as a place for swimming and boating eventually became unsafe for public health, overcome with invasive species, and is now “closed until further notice.” The water quality of Capitol Lake fails State EPA water quality standards, and it will not improve with the dam in place.

DERT was founded in 2009 by concerned citizens and in 2011 developed into a nonprofit organization. Over the years, we have done significant outreach to share our message with people in the community, as well as with key state agency leaders and legislators. In August 2013, we hired our first staff member to develop a volunteer program. We are now expanding our work by developing a program that will include specific projects to raise awareness and generate momentum to restore the estuary. We are preparing to launch a project called ‘Imagine the Estuary’ to engage the local community in a creative process with practical outcomes and a vision for a healthy urban estuary in downtown Olympia. Stay tuned for details!

The estuary is the largest and most beneficial project to clean up South Puget Sound, adding 260 acres of estuarine habitat. Once the estuary is restored the water will begin to clean itself with the flushing of the tide. The Deschutes River will once again flow freely. Invasive species will be shaken when the water temperature cools and salinity increases. Salmon populations in much of the Puget Sound will become stronger, as 260 acres of nurturing habitat for juvenile salmon will be restored. The currently closed body of water will open once again for recreation and exploration. Economic incentives present themselves with restoration work, preservation of natural resources and tourism opportunities. Many people have are coming to understand that estuary restoration is not only necessary, it’s desirable.


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