DES moves forward with first steps for estuary restoration

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Department of Enterprise Services (DES) has selected a new lead on the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Project and has chosen a consultant team for design work.
Ann Larson wearing a black blazer and white shirt

As Special Assistant to the DES Director, Ann Larson will oversee environmental, energy and climate initiatives for DES and will lead the estuary restoration project for the agency.

Next steps

After a competitive solicitation process, DES has contracted with consultant team assembled and led by Floyd| Snider for the initial phase of design and permitting. The project team is in the early stages of developing the project plan and timeline for the estuary restoration work. Initial work includes identifying and applying for grant fund opportunities, mobilizing some focused field efforts to support design, and developing a stakeholder and community engagement plan for the design process. Coordination with the range of stakeholders, including the cities of Olympia and Tumwater, resource agencies, interest groups, the community and others is expected to begin early 2024.

A Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Capitol Lake – Deschutes Estuary Long-Term Management Project released in October 2022 identified estuary restoration as the preferred alternative for long-term management of the waterbody. DES received $7million in Climate Commitment Act funds in the 2023-25 Biennium from the Legislature to begin the project.

New project lead

"Ann has played a significant leadership role in the long-term management project for Capitol Lake-Deschutes Estuary during her seven years at DES," said DES Director Tara C. Smith. "Her extensive background as a research biologist coupled with her government relations experience uniquely qualifies her to effectively move this project forward."

Before coming to DES, Ann spent six years at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully negotiating bipartisan support for key initiatives like sustainable fishing, salmon recovery, recreational access, preservation and protection of Washington’s diverse wildlife and the habitat where they live.

Prior to state government, Ann worked for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the San Juan Islands studying human impacts on the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales to better understand contributing factors for the population’s decline and their sensitivity to climate change.

Ann started her career as a research biologist leading several animal behavior research teams in countries like Ecuador, Thailand and Indonesia. Studying threatened and endangered species in these countries, Ann developed strong governmental relationships and collaborated with indigenous people to protect some of the richest and rarest biodiversity in the world.

"I’m excited to have Ann at the helm as DES delivers on the preferred alternative identified in the EIS and the project goals that DES and the stakeholders identified: improving water quality and ecological functions, managing sediment accumulation, and enhancing community use. The EIS was part of a multiyear stakeholder process that DES set up at the request of the Legislature to find a path forward based on science and stakeholder input," Smith said.

"I’m thrilled to work on a project of regional and nationwide significance that will help create a climate resilient future and improve Puget Sound health. Estuary restoration is an important step forward that will also bring many benefits to surrounding communities and I am so proud to be a part of it," Larson said.

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