The Department of Enterprise Services is undertaking a monumental estuary restoration project in the heart of the Washington State capitol.

The Deschutes Estuary Restoration Project will restore 260 acres of estuarine and salt marsh habitat at the mouth of the Deschutes River. The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) will remove the 5th Avenue Dam and tide gate built in 1951, which transformed the Deschutes Estuary into a freshwater reflecting pool for the Capitol Building on the Washington State Capitol Campus.

The 5th Avenue Dam and Bridge will be removed to restore tidal exchange. Tidal flats will be the predominant habitat type across the project area, with approximately 85 acres of new marsh habitat established along the shoreline. Restoration of the Deschutes Estuary will improve ecological conditions, achieve state water quality standards, improve climate resilience, and restore recreational boating and fishing in the waterbody. A new 5th Avenue Bridge will be constructed with vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian lanes

Benefits gained from the project include:

  • Providing productive habitat for shellfish, salmon, and other anadromous species, including aquatic species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act
  • Serving as a key step in restoring productive migratory fisheries in south Puget Sound and advancing Orca recovery
  • Addressing chronic water quality violations by improving dissolved oxygen conditions in Budd Inlet
  • Increasing climate resiliency across downtown Olympia by reducing maximum flood elevations by 1 foot compared to conditions with the 5th Avenue Dam in place
  • Producing habitat that will better sequester carbon than existing conditions
  • Celebrating the Pacific Northwest through native plantings, interpretive signs, and tribal art installations
  • Restoring active public use of the waterbody with new boardwalks, a hand-carried boat launch, and a fishing pier

Project Timeline

The project is now in design and permitting, and is funded for a portion of this work through an initial allocation by the Washington State Legislature through the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). The Deschutes Estuary Restoration Project is supported with funding from Washington’s CCA. The CCA supports Washington’s climate action efforts by putting cap-and-invest dollars to work reducing climate pollution, creating jobs, and improving public health. Information about the CCA is available at

A graphical timeline depicting planned design phases and stakeholder engagement. Fieldwork and site investigations will run from November 2024 through the middle of 2024. Conceptual design will occur between the end of 2023 through the middle of 2024, with targeted stakeholder engagement and engagement regarding sediment management. Additional funding is needed starting in quarter 3 of 2024. At that point, the project team will move into conceptual design review and 30% design, with additional stakeholder, regulatory agency, and public engagement. 60% design is estimated for 2025, and 90% and 100% design are slated for 2026. The team will continue to pursue federal and state grant funding throughout the project.
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