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Environment and Planning
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Drought, Irrigation Failure Take Toll On Washington Capitol Campus

Farms and fish aren’t the only ones suffering from Northwest drought conditions. So are trees and plants on Washington’s 435-acre Capitol campus.

The dry weather combined with irrigation system failures has killed off dozens of plants.

Not far from the Korean War Memorial is exhibit A. It’s a grassy knoll planted with Dwarf Burning Bush. Some of it is alive and well. But the leaves on one of the bushes have turned tan and brittle.

“Pretty crispy critters there on this particular plant,” Washington’s Capitol campus horticulturist Brent Chapman said. He said this plant was dealt a one-two punch: hotter and drier weather than usual plus the failure of an underground drip-irrigation system.

“This particular plant, unfortunately, will need to be cut down and replaced,” Chapman said.

Twenty-five to 30 Azaleas on the Capitol campus also succumbed. However, several stressed Maple trees bounced back once the irrigation system beneath them was fixed.

The drought has Capitol groundskeepers trying to save an additional 6.5 million gallons of water this year. That means the lawns around the Capitol are mostly brown.