Friday, July 28, 2017

Is Capitol Lake done as a local issue?

Allen Miller scrubbed Capitol Lake from his city council campaign website recently. Does this mean that defending Capitol Lake is no longer an important issue in Olympia?

As recently as June 14, this is how Miller's website read:


How it reads this morning:

He still refers to a Percival Cove Coho Habitat Restoration Project, which is a way that Capitol Lake defenders wrap themselves in pro-salmon rhetoric. But, he took away any actual reference to the lake itself.

This is just less than a year after Miller switched his endorsement from Jim Cooper to John Hutchings in the county commission race almost solely on the lake issue:
I have endorsed John Hutchings in the general election since his views are more in sync with voters. This was a difficult decision, since I am friends with Jim Cooper and worked with him on the successful Olympia Metropolitan Parks District measure last year. But Jim’s advocacy for an unconstitutional city income tax and to return Capitol Lake to mud flats is troubling.
Six years ago Miller went as far as declaring that Capitol Lake was THE election issue in town. In that election, lake supporters Dick Pust, Rhenda Strub and Brian Tomlinson all lost.

And now it seems like the tide has turned for the issue of whether we should restore the Deschutes Estuary where Capitol Lake now is. Both of Miller's opponents are pro-estuary restoration. Jim Cooper likely will retain his seat and is pro-estuary. Both Max Brown and Clark Gilman have endorsed some level of estuary restoration. In the last position, Jeannine Roe (the incumbent) has been historically pro-lake, but certainly hasn't been making an issue of it on her website or voter statement. Both of her opponents though, Renata Rollins and Michael Snodgrass, are pro-restoration.

All of this really shouldn't be that surprising because a 2009 public opinion poll by the city of Olympia laid out the raw material for what we're seeing now. Back then it was clear that eventually the tide would turn against the lake.

The poll showed that while Olympia residents weren't lining up explicitly behind estuary restoration, the values they brought to the debate certainly did. In the Olympia survey, 70 percent said that water quality, fish and wildlife was their most important consideration, and 74 percent said it was “extremely important.”

Fifty-nine percent said that keeping the cost the taxpayers low was either important or very important (44 percent). Only 11 percent said that maintaining the look of the lake was important, 36 percent said it was very important.

Eight years later we see a city that is much more well versed on the estuary vs. lake issue and lake defenders that have stopped mostly talking about the beauty of the lake and are trying to defend it as a good thing for nature.

But, if even Allen Miller is removing references to the lake from his website, what good is Capitol Lake as an issue?

Disclaimer: I work for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and indirectly for the Squaxin Island Tribe, who has a dog in the estuary fight. The above opinions are mine and not necessarily those of the commission or the tribe.