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Tapps water rights draft released

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After two years of study, the Washington Department of Ecology has re-issued a draft document pertaining to drinking water rights for Lake Tapps.

Puget Sound Energy shut down its White River hydropower plant in 2004, a facility that had used Lake Tapps as a reservoir to power its plant for nearly 100 years.

With the closing of the plant, PSE applied for two related water rights to convert the lake into a drinking water reservoir. One of the water rights authorizes diverting water from the White River into Lake Tapps. The second water right would authorize the storage of the diverted White River water in the Lake Tapps reservoir.

The drinking water rights were issued initially by Ecology to PSE in June 2003. The Pollution Control Hearings Board sent the decision back to Ecology after an appeal of the rights and the closing of hydroelectric plant.

PSE has agreed to sell the rights to Cascade Water Alliance, a non-profit, Eastside water provider formed in April of 1999, for about $37 million. Cascade currently distributes most of its water to Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah.

The draft proposal is open for a 45-day public review and comment period.

The water supply project is expected to supply the needs of Cascade's customers for the next 50 years beginning in 2024. The water right proposals would authorize an average of 64.6 million gallons of lake water a day for municipal water use by 2053.

The alliance would construct the necessary water treatment and delivery systems to get water from the lake to its members. Using Lake Tapps as a water supply reservoir to retain the lake was the preferred option from the Lake Tapps Task Force.

The proposed water rights document states that PSE or Cascade must:

€ increase the minimum in-stream flows in the White River to improve water quality and enhance salmon habitat. An in-stream flow is the amount of water flowing in a stream or river;

€ reserve up to 16 million gallons of lake water a day to replace or supplement public-water supplies in streams and rivers in the region where current withdrawals contribute to chronic stream-flow problems that are harmful to fish;

€ conserve up to 2,500 acres of lands in the White River watershed to support salmon and other wildlife.

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

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