Department of Ecology News Release - June 8, 2022
Updated: July 7, 2022

Planning for better water quality in Budd Inlet

New report details steps to reduce nutrients, protect fish


For decades, Olympia’s Budd Inlet has suffered from algae plumes and low oxygen levels, threatening the fish and wildlife that live in the waterbody at the southern edge of Puget Sound.

A new report from the Washington Department of Ecology details the steps needed to protect Budd Inlet and provide relief to fish and wildlife, while also helping the inlet to meet state water quality standards.

An abundance of nutrients in a waterbody can cause algae to grow at excessive rates. When algae and plants decompose, it uses up oxygen, robbing fish and aquatic life of the oxygen they need to breathe. For decades, Budd Inlet has suffered from low levels of dissolved oxygen. The single largest cause of this problem, environmental modeling has shown, is Capitol Lake. The human-made lake is shallow and stagnant during the summer months, which stimulates algal and aquatic plant growth. The water, algae, and plant debris from the lake then flow into Budd Inlet, affecting the water quality.

“Implementing an effective, long-term management solution for Capitol Lake is the single most critical action needed to address dissolved oxygen impairment in Budd Inlet,” said Vince McGowan, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality program. “We are committed to working with Budd Inlet stakeholders and residents to address water quality impairments in Budd Inlet and improve the health of the entire watershed.”

Although Capitol Lake is identified as the largest issue affecting water quality in Budd Inlet, there are other factors that need to be addressed for the inlet to meet water quality standards. Pollution from homes and businesses in the area flows into the Deschutes River, and then into Capitol Lake. The region’s wastewater treatment plants are another source of nutrients that can feed algae blooms and reduce oxygen.

To control these sources, the water quality plan sets a “total maximum daily load,” or TMDL, controlling how much nutrient pollution can enter Budd Inlet each day. The plan’s draft TMDL imposes new, seasonally adjusted requirements for wastewater treatment plants, and relies on nutrient reductions and corrective actions from other plans to address impacts from Puget Sound and the Deschutes River.

The draft TMDL will be available for public review and comment from June 8 to July 25, 2022, prior to its submission to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for federal approval.

Learn more

Ecology will host two informational webinars to explain the research and findings in the draft TMDL:

Provide input

You can submit comments on the draft TMDL online or by mail:

  • Online - Ecology’s eComments form
  • By mail (postmarked by July 25) to:

Ben Watson
Washington State Department of Ecology
Water Quality Program
PO Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775



Contact information

Jeff Zenk
Twitter: ecySW