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This report is intended to bring City Council up-to-date on the current status of research
into alternative plans for management of Capitol Lake and Olympia’s role in the
decision making process. It includes:
• Brief history of Capitol Lake and the CLAMP process.
• Alternatives being analyzed (primary alternatives are a more actively managed
Lake and removing the 5th Avenue dam and re-creating an estuary subject to tidal
flow with or without a smaller but permanent reflecting pool).
• Issues of concern to Olympia (sedimentation affecting the Olympia Yacht Club,
Percival Landing and private marinas, potential for downtown flooding,
ecosystem health, City roads and utilities, parks and recreation, fish and wildlife
habitat, water quality, regional economy, visual appearance and cultural values).
• Recommended next steps for Council and public involvement process.
Over the next two months, detailed issue papers will be prepared summarizing the
results of the past several years of research.

History of Capitol Lake
Capitol Lake covers 260 acres on the State Capitol Campus in Olympia and Tumwater.
It was created in 1951 when a dam was constructed at the mouth of the Deschutes River,
blocking the tidal action of Puget Sound. The lake forms a reflecting pool for the
Legislative (Capitol) Building, as envisioned in the 1911 Capitol Campus Master Plan.
The state Department of General Administration (GA) manages Capitol Lake, Heritage
and Marathon parks, the Capitol Lake Interpretive Center and Deschutes Parkway as
part of the Capitol Campus.

Management Challenges
Capitol Lake is a beautiful setting, but poses a number of management challenges.
Each year the Deschutes River dumps about 35,000 cubic yards* of sediment into the
lake, About 60 to 80 percent of the suspended sediment transported by the river has
been trapped by the lake since dam construction, and the lake is generally regarded
to be in the process of conversion to a freshwater marsh. The lake is about 28
percent smaller and holds approximately 60 percent less water than it did in 1951.
As sediment continues to accumulate, it could increase the risk of flooding in
downtown Olympia. Portions of the lake were dredged twice, in 1979 and 1986.
However, because of environmental concerns, ongoing dredging of the lake is
increasingly difficult and expensive.


[*Note: FS 2 says 35,000 cu yds/yr. See DEFS Sediment Table 2.2 and text p. 2-5: results of
many studies range from 22-42,000 m3/yr, averaging an average annual load of 27,000 m3/yr =
35,314 cu yds); accounting for trapping of fines, they estimated 32-38,000 m3/yr = 42-50,000 cu
Water quality is also a major challenge. As the lake becomes shallower, summertime
water temperatures increase, stressing salmon and other fish. Higher water
temperatures have stimulated the growth of algae and noxious weeds such as Eurasian
milfoil. When algae decomposes, it uses up dissolved oxygen in the water. Low levels
of oxygen can harm fish and wildlife. Noxious weeds crowd out native vegetation,
reducing habitat for fish and wildlife. The lake is on the state list of impaired water
bodies for fecal coliform bacteria and total phosphorus.

History of CLAMP
The need for a new lake management plan surfaced in 1996, when the state was
attempting to gain permits for the construction of Heritage Park and maintenance
dredging of the Middle Basin and Percival Cove.

To address these problems, GA organized an interagency task force in 1997 that

became the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan (CLAMP) Steering Committee.
The nine-member committee represents state, local and tribal governments.
Councilman Joe Hyer currently represents Olympia on the committee, which meets
monthly and is open to the public.

The committee considered various long-term options for Capitol Lake including
dredging sediment to keep an open-water lake and removing the dam so a saltwater
estuary could be restored. After reviewing the costs and environmental permits
required, the committee agreed to maintain a freshwater lake for the next 10 years. To
guide day-to-day activities during this time, the committee adopted a 10-year Capitol
Lake management plan (, which identifies 14
objectives for improving water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and public recreational
opportunities, while managing flood control, sediment deposits and adjacent

Process to Date: Feasibility Study and Alternatives Analysis

From 2003-2008, the committee completed a series of scientific feasibility studies which
concluded that removing the 5th Avenue dam would be sufficient to reinstate tidal
circulation within the estuary. Based on these studies, a managed lake and two estuary
alternatives were identified and further studies have identified the relative impacts of
each alternative on sediment, dredging costs, flooding, fish and wildlife, parks and
recreation, the regional economy and cultural values. A final study, on water quality, is
expected by mid-March 2009.


Decision-Making Timeline
Along with other stakeholders, Olympia City Council is being asked to express the
City’s concerns and provide recommendations to the CLAMP committee by April, 2009.
The committee will then present a recommendation to the Director of GA, who will in
turn recommend an option to the Capitol Campus Committee. The State Legislature
will make the final decision regarding the lake’s future.
December, 2008 – March, 2009. CLAMP committee publishes summaries of the
Alternatives Analysis.
January, 2009. Council study session – overview of CLAMP process and issues of
February – March, 2009. Water Resources prepares detailed issue papers for Council
and public; staff meets with local stakeholders (see recommendation at the end of this
April, 2009. City Council reports its concerns/recommendations to the CLAMP
May – June 2009. CLAMP committee reviews Alternatives Analysis and input from
Olympia and other regional stakeholders and makes its recommendations to the
Director of GA.

Status Quo (No Action)
Unless the lake is dredged regularly, sediment will continue to accumulate in the middle
and north basins. Over several decades, these parts of the lake will change to emergent
wetlands and then to riparian woodlands, similar to the area south of Interstate 5.
Eventually, the Deschutes River will discharge directly into Budd Inlet at the 5th
Avenue dam. This natural progression is not being considered as a management option,
but has been used as a baseline for comparison with other alternatives.

Managed Lake Alternative

With this alternative, the north and middle basins would be dredged to a depth of 13
feet; this depth would be maintained through regular dredging every eight or nine years
(see Figure 1, i.e. AA Dredging, Fig 18, existing lake with dredge footprint). No dredging
would occur in the south basin except near the public boat launch. The 5th Avenue dam
would remain; the tide gates would continue allowing fresh water to flow into Budd
Inlet and preventing saltwater from entering the lake. New construction would include
a new pedestrian bypass around the dam and completion of the final phase of Heritage
Park; there would be no changes to the adjacent roadway system.


Estuary Alternative
Under this alternative, the 5th Avenue dam and about 400 feet of the Deschutes
Parkway would be removed. The channel separating the lake from Budd Inlet would be
widened to 500 feet. The Deschutes River would flow directly into Budd Inlet and
saltwater would flow in and out of the estuary with the tides. The north basin would
have enough water to reflect the Capitol buildings most of the time; mud flats would
appear during low tide. Modeling predicted that the north basin, much of the
middle basin and the main channel, which would reform quickly after dam removal,
would be under water 80% of the time.
Before the dam is removed, a channel would be dredged through the lake to reduce the
impact of a large sediment release into Budd Inlet; sediment would be used as fill along
the west side of the north and middle basins (see Figure 3; i.e. AA Dredging, Fig 22, dredge
and fill footprint]. Dredging in Budd Inlet would be needed every three years to maintain
access to the navigation channel, Port of Olympia shipping berths, Percival Landing and
private marinas on the west side of the Port peninsula. The restored estuary would be
shallower than the pre-dam estuary because over half (57%) of the sediment stored in
the lake since 1951 would remain within the three basins.
A new 5th Avenue bridge, mirroring the 4th Avenue bridge, would be constructed. A
new intersection of Deschutes Parkway and 5th Avenue to the west of the new bridge
would connect to the 4th Avenue roundabout. The foundation of Deschutes Parkway
would be protected from tidal impacts by constructing a rock buttress along the western
shore of the lake and along the Percival Cove causeway.

Dual Basin Estuary Alternative

This is a variation on the Estuary Alternative, and is similar to a design suggested in the
1912 Olmstead brothers plan for the Capitol Campus. With this alternative, a north-
south barrier would divide the north basin (see Figure 4, i.e. AA Hydraulics Fig 7). The
east side of the basin would be a 39-acre saltwater reflecting pool for the Capitol
buildings. The west side would be an estuary, influenced by tidal actions. Inlets in the
barrier would allow saltwater to move through the reflecting pool at high tide,
refreshing the pool.
The 1,900-foot barrier would be constructed of sheet pile and topped with a pedestrian
walkway. It would connect to the shoreline east of the current dam location and east of
the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad trestle.

Issues for Olympia

Capitol Lake is a central feature of Olympia’s landscape, and is valued for many reasons
by Olympia residents, businesses, visitors and native Tribes, who therefore have an
interest in how the lake is managed in the future. The choice between a Managed Lake
or Estuary (with or without a permanent pool), will affect the future of Olympia’s
natural ecosystems, economy and culture.


The key issues of concern to Olympia in the selection of a management alternative for
Capitol Lake are summarized briefly below. In subsequent issues papers, details will be
presented on potential impacts to:
• Sediment management and impacts on Port and West Bay marinas.
• Potential flooding in downtown Olympia
• Recreational activities and community events
• City streets and utility infrastructure
• Fish and wildlife habitat
• Water quality
• Local economy
• Visual appearance Cultural values
Costs of sediment management and mitigation of flooding impacts have been estimated.
Other implementation costs have not been identified and cost-sharing has not been
addressed. Many uncertainties remain.

Sediment Management and Impacts of Dredging

With both the Managed Lake and Estuary Alternatives, initial dredging would remove a
substantial quantity of the sediment that has accumulated since the dam was
constructed. Each year the Deschutes River would continue to deposit an estimated
35,000 cubic yards of sediment into the lake. With the Lake Alternative, the entire lake
would be dredged every 8-9 years; in the interval, sediment traps in the lake would be
dredged. [i.e. 4-5 yrs after every dredging of the whole lake]
With the Estuary Alternatives, most of this added material would wash into Budd Inlet
and accumulate on the east side of the Port peninsula, affecting primarily the navigation
channel, Port of Olympia berths, Olympia Yacht Club, and West Bay marinas (Percival
Landing, Martin, Fiddlehead and One Tree). These areas would need to be dredged
every three years for the first 18 years and every six years thereafter. Without a cost-
sharing arrangement, the Olympia harbor would be negatively impacted by estuary
restoration [FS 6].
During dredging of the lake, traffic would be disrupted along Deschutes Parkway.
Marathon Park is the most convenient location for staging of barges and other dredging
equipment and its use by the public could be limited.
Over a 50-year period, total costs of initial and maintenance dredging are estimated to
be about 2.5 – 3 times higher with the Managed Lake Alternative, than the estuary
options.;[see AA Dredging Tables ES-1 and ES-2]
[NOTE: In the community economic values report, the summary of costs for infrastructure
investment and maintenance includes construction costs as well as initial and maintenance
dredging. Costs are given in 2008 $$ only. My calculation of 2.5-3x higher costs with Managed
Lake was based on lifetime costs of initial and maintenance dredging only. Using Tables B and


C in the economic report Exec Summary shows the Lake costs would be 1.5 - 1.8 x higher (2008
$$, including infrastructure construction costs).]

Potential for Flooding in Downtown Olympia

Another concern for Olympia is what impacts the Lake or Estuary Alternatives would
have on water levels and potential flooding in the downtown area. From a flood
management perspective, there is no urgent need for dredging Capitol Lake.
Existing dam management – opening tide gates to lower the lake after each high tide
during storm events – is adequate and could be further improved with increased
automation and coordination. Dredging and further lowering the lake in advance of
storm events would have relatively little effect on peak flood elevations. [AA Hydraulics]
Flooding in the downtown area is dominated by the limited capacity and adverse
hydraulic gradients in the stormwater system, rather than by direct lake overtopping.
To prevent localized flooding around the intersection of 7th Avenue SW and Water
Street, the City has installed a manually operated gate valve to prevent the outfall from
backing up and overflowing, and a pump to convey stormwater to the lake. Installing a
permanent pump station and conveyance system with gates could be useful regardless
of the lake management alternative
Peak flood elevations. Under the Estuary Alternatives, the peak flood elevation would
be dominated by the tidal elevations, and would be up to half a foot higher than with
the Lake Alternative. This increase would be larger for the more frequent high water
levels (2-year and 5-year). However, at present sea levels, the peak flood elevations
would be no higher than the existing 100-year FEMA floodplain elevation. Increased
flooding in downtown Olympia would not be expected. [AA Hydraulics]
Except for Heritage Park, much of the park infrastructure around Capitol Lake is
vulnerable to flooding and would remain so under both the Lake and Estuary
Alternatives. No City parks would be affected.
Sea level rise. Future sea level rise would not change these relative results. With the
Estuary Alternatives, peak flood elevations would increase directly with the mean sea
level. With the Lake Alternative, the peak flood elevations would increase slightly less
rapidly. However, increases in runoff from the Deschutes River due to warming
conditions could increase the peak flood elevations significantly with the Lake
Alternative, but would not affect peak flood elevations for the Estuary Alternatives. [AA
Vulnerable infrastructure includes the existing 5th Avenue dam, low-lying sections of
Deschutes Parkway and BNSF railroad, the existing Pedestrian Bridge, and
accompanying sewer and water lines (see Figure 5; i.e. AA Infrastructure Fig 1]. Increasing
sea level can be expected to affect infrastructure in similar ways regardless of the
selected lake management alternative, but would occur sooner with the Estuary
Alternatives. These impacts are being considered as part of the City’s larger assessment


of how sea level rise could affect the entire downtown area. [note: AA Infrastructure lists
5th Ave. dam as vulnerable but apparently assumes it will be replaced, so there’s no discussion].

City Streets and Utility Infrastructure

The Estuary Alternatives would require construction of a new 5th Avenue bridge,
mirroring the 4th Avenue Bridge. A new intersection of Deschutes Parkway and
5th Avenue to the west of the new bridge would connect to the 4th Avenue roundabout.
The foundation of Deschutes Parkway would be protected from tidal impacts by
constructing a rock buttress along the western shore of the lake and along the Percival
Cove causeway. (See Figure 6; i.e. FS 8, sketch of 4th and 5th Ave. bridges?)
Utility infrastructure would not be initially impacted, except that under the Estuary
Alternative, sewer and water lines associated with the 5th Avenue Dam and possibly the
Pedestrian Bridge would need to be replaced.
Impacts of sea level rise would occur somewhat sooner with the Estuary Alternative; as
mentioned above, these impacts are being considered as part of Olympia’s larger
assessment of how sea level rise could affect the entire downtown area.

Recreational Activities and Community Events

Recreational use of the Capitol Lake basin includes walking, picnicking, wildlife
viewing (salmon runs and bird-watching), fishing and boating. No City of Olympia
parks are located in the Capitol Lake basin. However, recreational activities sponsored
by the City and community groups frequently occur at Heritage Park and Marathon
Park. Olympia residents enjoy these as well as Capitol Lake Interpretive Park and the
City of Tumwater Historical Park.
Under any alternative, Heritage Park would be completed and use would continue as at
present. Swimming still would not be viable under any alternative.
Boating activities. Conditions for boating and recreational fishing would improve with
either management strategy. Algae blooms and noxious weeds would be discouraged
by tidal flows with the Estuary Alternatives, or by periodic dredging with the Lake
Alternative. However, the piers and docks around the estuary would be inaccessible to
boats during low tide; with the Dual Basin alternative, only the piers and docks around
the east basin would be inaccessible.
Since boating activities would be dependent on the tides, boating associated with
community events like Lakefair and the Dragon Boat Races could be impacted.
Recreational boating would be less likely to be diminished because boating could be
scheduled with the tides.
Trails. With the Lake Alternative, the bike and pedestrian path would be modified at
the 5th Avenue dam to safely separate pedestrians and bicycles from autos.
With the Estuary Alternatives, trails at Tumwater Historical Park and the bulkhead at
the Arc of Statehood would be realigned. The new 5th Avenue bridge would include


improvements to the bicycle and pedestrian path at a higher elevation than the existing
dam. With the Dual Basin Estuary, pedestrians would have access to a new walkway
across the barrier dividing the two basins.

Fish and Wildlife

In considering alternatives for lake management, a major question has been whether a
self-sustaining estuarine ecosystem can be reestablished, given the constraints of the
urban setting. Based on modeling of predicted physical conditions (salinity, sediment
characteristics and elevation), biologists expect an estuary similar to Mud Bay and
Kennedy Creek would evolve. The estuary would be characterized by salt marshes,
mud flats, mixed sand and mud flats, and sandy channels, with smaller areas of
vegetated marsh dispersed along the periphery of the Lake. [AA Biology and Addendum]
Reestablishing a saltwater estuary would likely support a diverse array of birds, fish and
invertebrates. Habitat for ten Priority Habitat Species (PHS) and economically
important species such as salmon and a number of bird species would improve.
Freshwater-dependent species such as trout, bass and bats, would decline. Initial
dredging would disrupt habitat over two summer seasons. (AA Cultural, table 1)
With the Managed Lake Alternative, the ecosystem would remain similar to its present
condition. Periodic dredging would continually disrupt habitat, but could improve
water quality by removing algae and noxious weeds [ see AA Cultural, Table 1].
Freshwater fish and freshwater dependent species such as bats would continue to be
Conditions for fish migration would likely improve under either alternative, but more
significantly with the Estuary. Freshwater exotic plants such as milfoil would likely
decline but could be replaced by other invasive species associated with saltwater.
[Herrara summary Alternative Analysis 5.0.]
Researchers noted significant uncertainty about their findings due to modeling
limitations, lack of data, incomplete understanding of the habitat area needed by many
species, impacts of climate change, and urban impacts such as stormwater runoff.
However, they concluded that with realistic goals and an adaptive rehabilitation
process, these uncertainties could be overcome and successful estuarine communities
could be reestablished within the basin. (AA WDFW ExecSum and FS3)

Water Quality
A 2000 water quality computer model showed that removing the Capitol Lake dam
could substantially improve dissolved oxygen levels, since the cooler tidal water would
discourage algae and noxious weeds such as European milfoil. The effect on fecal
coliform and total phosphorous is not known In October 2008, the state Department of
Ecology published a draft water quality report on the Deschutes River watershed (
including Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet). At this time, Ecology is using these findings to


assess the relative impacts of the Lake and Estuary alternatives on water quality. A
report detailing these findings is expected in mid-March 2009.

Regional Economy
The decision to manage Capitol Lake as a lake or estuary could affect the local and
regional economy, including marine commerce, tourism and downtown businesses. A
CLAMP report on community economic values summarized the direct costs of the Lake
and Estuary alternatives, but the effects on these values have not been quantified. Other
unknowns include the costs of water quality improvements and the willingness of state
and federal agencies to share in restoration or maintenance costs.
The report recommended a process to identify potential opportunities for affected public
entities and private marinas to share costs directly associated with whichever long-term
management strategy is selected.
Some of the potentially impacted economic activities identified in preliminary studies
are listed below:
Marine Commerce. Goods and services related to marine commerce provided by the
Port of Olympia and the numerous businesses supported by marine traffic, including
yacht clubs, marinas, boat repair and supply shops, grocery stores and restaurants.
Without a cost-sharing arrangement, the Olympia harbor would be negatively impacted
by dredging due to estuary restoration. [FS 6, Net Benefit Analysis]
Tourism. Tourism spending for the Olympia area was estimated at $209.7 million in
2003. Most visitors arrive when the state legislature is in session, between January and
April or May. Tourists also come to the area to view wildlife and participate in events
such as Lakefair. Estuary restoration is unlikely to affect tourism related to the state
legislature. However, it is uncertain whether a restored estuary would attract more or
fewer tourists, so the economic impact to Olympia area businesses is not known.

Visual Appearance
Most Olympians don’t remember a time before there was a Capitol Lake, when the
Deschutes River flowed directly into Budd Inlet. [For many of those who do, the memories
are of the stench of sewage effluent.] For nearly 60 years, Capitol Lake has been the
centerpiece of Olympia’s landscape and a symbol of Olympia as Washington’s capitol
city. The Lake is visible from Deschutes Parkway, 5th Avenue, Interstate-5, South
Capitol (and other neighborhoods), and the proposed condominiums on the isthmus
between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet.
With the Lake Alternative, the visual appearance of the lake would be essentially
unchanged. With the Estuary Alternatives, views would change daily with the ebb and
flow of the tide. Whether or not this would be a positive change is entirely subjective.


Aesthetic and Cultural Values

In focus groups conducted for the CLAMP committee, participants identified a wide
range of cultural values associated with Capitol Lake, and expressed strong feelings –
positive and negative – about removing the dam and restoring a tidal estuary to the
basin [DEFS Net benefit p. 58, AA Cultural]. Cultural values such as those listed below
will influence public perceptions of the most desirable alternative for Capitol Lake:
• Connection with nature, history, memories and ancestors.
• Starting point for the American dream (e.g. early European settlers, the Chinese-
American community).
• Symbol of civic pride, including the lake as a reflecting pool for the Capitol.
• Place to experience the beauty of nature, recreation and exercise.
• Source of community identity and place for community traditions (including
Lakefair, Bon Odori, Dragon Boat Races, Procession of Species).
• A place for education about nature, life skills, history, geography.

Reference Documents
Following is a list of background reports prepared since 2003 for the CLAMP feasibility
study and alternatives analysis.

Alternative Analysis Technical Reports

Gelfenbaum, G. & Stevens, A. 2008. Capitol Lake Alternatives Analysis:

Incorporation of Fine-Grained Sediment Erodibility Measurements Into Sediment
Transport Modeling US Department of Interior – US Geological Survey. Menlo
Park, CA.

Moffat & Nichol. 2008. Capitol Lake Alternatives Analysis – Dredging and Disposal.
Seattle, WA.

Moffat & Nichol. 2008. Capitol Lake Alternatives Analysis – Hydraulic Modeling.
Seattle, WA.

Moffat & Nichol. 2008. Capitol Lake Alternatives Analysis – Low Lying
Infrastructure. Seattle, WA.

Moffat & Nichol. 2008. Capitol Lake Dam Condition Assessment and Life Expectancy.
Seattle, WA.

Hayes, M.; Quinn, T.; & Hicks, T. 2008. Implications of Capitol Lake Management for
Fish and Wildlife. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia,

General Administration. 2009. Community Economic Values for the Capitol Lake
Basin. Olympia WA.


ABHL. 2009. Capitol Lake Cultural and Spiritual Values. Seattle, WA.

Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study (DEFS) – Technical Reports

Cascade Economics LLC; Northern Economics, Inc.; & Spatial Informatics Group
LLC. 2007. Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study: Net Social and Economic Benefit
Analysis. Washougal, WA.

Garono, R.; Thompson, E.; & Koehler, M. 2006. Deschutes River Estuary Restoration
Study Biological Conditions Report. Earth Design Consultants, Inc. Corvallis, OR.

Garono, R.; Thompson, E.; & Koehler, M. 2007. Addendum to the Deschutes River
Estuary Restoration Study Biological Conditions Report. Earth Design Consultants,
Inc. Corvallis, OR.

George, D.; Gelfenbaum, G.; Lesser, G.; and Stevens, A. 2006. Deschutes Estuary
Feasibility Study - Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport Modeling. (Open File
Report 2006-1318) U.S. Department of the Interior - U.S. Geological Survey.
Menlo Park, CA.

Moffat & Nichol. 2007. Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study – Engineering Design and
Cost Estimates. Seattle, WA.

Philip Williams & Associates, Ltd. 2007. Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study -
Independent Technical Review. San Francisco, CA.

Philip Williams & Associates, Ltd. 2008. Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study - Final
Report. San Francisco, CA.

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Deschutes Estuary

Feasibility Study: Net Benefit Analysis – Stakeholder Involvement. Olympia, WA.

Technical Reports by Others

Roberts, M.; Ahmed, A.; and Pelletier, G. 2008. Deschutes River, Capitol Lake, and
Budd Inlet Temperature, Fecal Coliform, Dissolved Oxygen, pH, and Fine Sediment
Total Maximum Daily Load Study Water Quality Study Findings. Washington State
Department of Ecology, Olympia, WA.

Science Applications International Corporation. 2008. Sediment Characterization

Study - Budd Inlet, Olympia, WA: Final Data Report. Bothell, WA.

Fact Sheets

1. 10-Year Action Plan, 2006

2. Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study, 2006


3. Reference Estuary and Biological Conditions Report, 2006

4. Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport Modeling Report, 2006
5. Engineering Design and Cost Estimate Report, 2007
6. Net Social and Economic Benefit Analysis, 2007
7. Creation of Capitol Lake, 2007
8. Alternative Analysis, 2008


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