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Dike delays Tapps filling

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Hold on, the water is coming.

Puget Sound Energy has started filling Lake Tapps for the summer boating and swimming season, but it will be a close call getting the reservoir up to recreation level by Memorial Day.

Roger Thompson, spokesman for PSE, said the utility started filling the lake April 26.

“Assuming we get average flows,” Thompson said, “the lake should be filled before Memorial Day, but for sure by that weekend.”

Filling the lake has been slower this year due to the work on the backflow dike east of Inlet Island.

“We knew it would be close,” Thompson said. “But we anticipate people will be swimming and boating by Memorial Day weekend.”

The $4 million dike was built to keep water from surging out of the lake during an earthquake.

The dike structure is 123 feet wide, 28 feet high and will be about 400 feet downstream (east) of the Printz Basin.

In other news concerning the lake, Tom Longer from the Department of Ecology said the final draft for the Lake Tapps' drinking water rights are close to being reissued, but work remains.

“We don't have a whole bunch of work left,” Loranger said. “We have all the data we needed to update the (water) demand and we are doing that work now.”

Loranger said Cascade Water Alliance has to complete the State Environmental Policy Act statement before the water rights can be reisuued.

The Lake Tapps community has had concerns about the demand for the flow levels in White River during July, which could cause the lake to drop below recreation levels.

“I still stand behind our commitment to the community,” Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney said. “I think Cascade Water Alliance is trying to address the community's desires in July. The last remaining issue is the flows in July and we need to work hard on a solution that will keep us out of court.”

PSE has owned the lake for nearly 100 years, using it as a reservoir to store water for the White River Hydroelectric Plant the utility operated until January 2004.

Ecology issued drinking water rights in 2003 allowing PSE to convert its utility water right to a consumptive right, which was seen as a way to save the lake.

The decision was appealed by numerous parties, including the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the city of Auburn.

The Pollution Control Hearings Board sent the decision back to Ecology in 2004 to be rewritten in light of the hydroelectric plant closure.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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