Lake people: Don’t take too much water

A community group is feeling better about sharing water from Lake Tapps with water consumers in Covington, Maple Valley and elsewhere.

Plan involving Covington and Maple Valley stirs up recreational issues

A community group is feeling better about sharing water from Lake Tapps with water consumers in Covington, Maple Valley and elsewhere.

Members of the Lake Tapps Community Council said they were encouraged following a series of meetings regarding the purchase of the lake by the Cascade Water Alliance, which includes Covington Water District.

The council and lake-area residents have been worried about the future of Tapps’ water levels once the alliance takes possession of the lake, but recent word that the state is considering an adjustable water right quelled their concerns.

“I feel real confident,” said council president Chuck Romeo. “I feel real positive right now.”

The news of an adaptive water right was announced by Department of Ecology director Jay Manning in March. According to DOE’s Southwest regional water resource manager, Tom Loranger, the management plan will allow the agency to monitor flows in and out of the White River and through Lake Tapps to make sure the lake remains at recreational levels.

Loranger said DOE will take in such factors as snowpack, the needs of salmon spawning in the river and potentially global warming, which could affect flows in the river in the future.

“We’re trying to balance the needs of the river and the lake,” Loranger said. “It’s a delicate balance.”

Lake Tapps is a man-made reservoir that originally supplied Puget Sound Energy’s White River hydroelectric power plant. Soon after the plant was closed in 2004, the utility began working with cities and homeowner associations around the lake to ensure the viability of Pierce County’s second-largest recreational lake.

In the culmination of negotiations that began in 2005, Puget Sound Energy is selling the lake and its water rights to Cascade Water Alliance for $39 million as a source for drinking water in parts of King County. Covington Water District, part of the eight-member association of utilities and cities, serves Covington, Maple Valley and Black Diamond, plus some unincorporated areas of the county.

State Rep. Chris Hurst, who was instrumental in dealings between the community council, the alliance and tribes, said Cascade originally began negotiating flow rates that could leave lake levels unstable during the summer, hindering recreational activity and potentially imperiling aquifers for the surrounding area.

But according to Loranger, the water right being considered would have only dropped lake levels below recreational levels by six inches for a total of 14 days over the past 15 years.

Hurst, whose constituency includes the Lake Tapps area, said the lake-level information that was provided at meetings with DOE “was a huge step in the right direction.”

Romeo called the proposal “a win for all of us. They’re not going to let the lake go dry.”

More than 300,000 customers are served by water systems operated by the alliance members, which include the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Tukwila, the Covington district, Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and Skyway Water and Sewer District (Renton area).

The Sumner Reporter contributed to this report.