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 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Deschutes Watershed. DERT began organizing in 2009 and became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2011. DERT’s first objective is to restore the Deschutes Estuary and remove the 5th Avenue dam in Olympia, Washington. 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.
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.