Builders in Lacey now face the challenge of constructing homes that have zero impact on the health of salmon. The state’s first zero-impact ordinance was unanimously approved by the Lacey City Council on Aug. 26.

“Who would have thought that anyone would be allowed to build something that didn’t kill salmon,’ Tom Holz says of the ordinance, which permits rather than requires zero-impact construction.

“You may ask why would anybody need special dispensation to undertake a project that won’t hurt salmon,” says Holz, the hydrologic services director of SCA Engineering in Lacey and a proponent of the measure approved by the City Council.

The fact of the matter is that all jurisdictions have developmental regulations that call for wide roads with storm sewers and treatment ponds, collection systems and outfall into a creek, says Holz, but those are exactly the things that kill salmon.

Holz-proposed alternatives include grassy streets and homes that are more vertical than horizontal in order to minimize the volume of impervious surfaces that make it impossible for precipitation to seep into the ground and instead produce runoff.

He helped Lacey draft the ordinance which is similar to a Snohomish County plan—which Holz also worked on. Snohomish has been working on its plan for more than a year, he says. Lacey is the first municipality to pass such a measure.

Holz would like to build a demonstration project that might include porous road surfaces of a material such as Grasscrete, a form of concrete that allows grass to grow through it.

The focus of a zero-impact housing project is to keep most of the site forested or natural, explains Mitch Dion, Lacey’s water resources manager. The theory is that the less surface that’s paved with sidewalks, foundations, driveways and parking lots, the less runoff—and ultimately the less flooding—there will be.

Dion says Lacey did not approve the measure simply to mollify the federal government.

“It’s really not driven by the federal Endangered Species Act,” he says. “We’re looking to preserve as much nature as we can in the future. We’re going to try to catch each drop where it falls just like nature would. It’s a bold step for the council.”

For more information, call the City of Lacey at (360) 491-3214.

By Kamilla K. McClelland, Business Examiner staff