OP-ED: Concerns About West Bay Yards Development Proposal

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was originally submitted as a comment to the Olympia City Council.

I must express my concerns about the West Bay Yards (WBY) development proposal. Having recently provided public comment re: the proposed (a) relaxation of Olympia’s Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) and (b) further development on the Port of Olympia, I had collectively expressed these concerns:

  1. The proposed SMP reduction in shoreline buffers (supposedly to provide more amenities for West Bay Park) was likely a “Trojan horse” for other development, which the recent WBY proposal has since revealed to be true.
  2. We don’t need developments closer to the shoreline in the face of sea-level rise from climate change, especially given your mandate to be more climate-friendly (with the help of nearby high-school climate clubs). Creation of more upland habitats through fill would further reduce intertidal-wetland habitats in Budd Inlet, which really need a net gain according to the state’s proposed (but Covid-delayed) mandate for that. Indeed, the present “no-net-loss” mandate isn’t working to restore estuarine-forage fishes and imperiled Pacific salmonids and Southern Resident killer whales. More fill would also increase earthquake hazards, as now seen in downtown Olympia.
  3. We need natural shorelines, rather than armored ones that greatly damage Puget Sound. And when shoreline protection is needed, it’s better to use bioengineered solutions, notably large-woody debris (LWD) that benefits intertidal-forage fishes that feed Pacific salmonids. Natural habitats like LWD and macro-plant (seaweed/eelgrass) beds also provide better protection of salmon vs. the pinnipeds (e.g., harbor seals) that feed on them in Budd Inlet. For more information re: the benefits of macro-plants in Puget Sound, please see my recent 1-hour presentation:

Vadas, R. Jr. 2020. Seaweeds & other marine multi-cellular plants of Puget Sound (webinar). InD. Mahnke (ed.). Washington Native Plant Society Virtual Presentations (Seattle, WA), September 14 ( https://www.wnps.org/wnps-annual-events/virtual-events). My further concerns are that:

  1. Budd Inlet is already polluted to the point that shellfish harvesting is only allowed seasonally and at the outer limits of this catchment (e.g., Burfoot Park), including anoxic problems on the Port of Olympia. And the old Hardel property is contributing greatly to that toxin problem. People shouldn’t be living on that.
  2. West Bay Drive is already highly congested, so a big “yuppie” development there would make this traffic artery an impractical way to reach West Olympia.
  3. I’d prefer to see West Bay Park and Schneider Creek continue to thrive, rather than have a nearby, deforested development that would further heat Budd Inlet to worsen climate-change impacts. That creek and other smaller tributaries along West Bay presently provide clean, cold water to Budd Inlet.

For more information, please see the (a) cover story in the latest (February) issue of ‘Works in Progress’ and (b) statement by the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation re: problems with the WBY proposal: https://olywip.org/a-fixed-and-functioning-west-bay-for-whom-and-to-what-endhttps://olyecosystems.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/ocep-west-bay-yards-position-statement.pdf 

Finally, I must express concern that you continue to promote market-rate over low-income housing, even though the homeless population has burgeoned greatly since the Great Recession: Vadas, B. Jr. 2020. The future of Olympia’s urban zoning in the face of covid-19 and climate change. Works In Progress (Olympia, WA) 31(3): 14 (https://olywip.org/the-future-of-olympias-urban-zoning). I’d rather see my taxes go towards housing the (a) law-abiding homeless in empty storefronts and (b) others in mental institutions, the latter having been decimated by the Reagan Administration. Promoting the rich in neoliberal fashion is really a “Republican-lite” strategy that isn’t serving our country or county well. It’s time for a paradigm shift to better serve Olympia citizens. Thanks in advance for addressing my concerns. 


Dr. Robert L. Vadas, Jr. (Bob), aquatic ecologist

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Guest Contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of The Olympia Tribune, our publisher, staff, or patrons.

By Guest Contributor

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