Responding to pleas from property owners and builders, members of the Board of County Commissioners in Olympia mandated changes to the process that reviews building applications in light of needed protections for endangered species of Mazama pocket gophers.

As a result, Thurston County has completed a record number of reviews so far this year. Officials say they began the season on June 1 with 130 building permit applications to review and have already completed 200 reviews with two site visits each review. Another 100 reviews scheduled for completion before the season ends on October 31.

This accelerated pace of reviews not only cleared the backlog from the previous season, it also addressed all new applications submitted. As of last week, County staff were still scheduling site reviews for new permit applicants.

This is the first time the County has completed gopher reviews for everyone who applied for a building permit, and needed a gopher review, in a single season since the multiple-visit requirement went into effect.

Considering the site review season ends on October 31, the property site-review schedule is now closed to ensure all applications received to date can get through the review process prior to the end of the review season. Any new building permit applications received requiring a review will have to wait until 2018 to move forward with the process. The schedule is closed because reviewers will no longer be able to complete two reviews, 30 days apart, as required by USFWS.

This does not mean all building permit applicants have to wait until 2018. Gopher reviews only apply to building permit applicants who plan to build on gopher soils and are within the County’s permit jurisdiction. In a typical year, that’s about 10 percent of the County’s 4,000 total applications.