Lake Tapps water rights back in Ecology's hands

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The Lake Tapps consumptive water rights issued to Puget Sound Energy has been officially returned to the state Department of Ecology for a rewrite.

The order from the state Pollution Control Hearings Board was received by Ecology Aug. 13, according to spokesman Curt Hart.

"There are no surprises in the order," Hart said. "The board reversed the water rights based on the cessation of the hydroelectric power plant. We're happy with the ongoing work revising the contract and we expect to have a draft ready for public comment in mid-September."

PSE was granted three consumptive water rights permits, or Reports of Examination, by Ecology in June 2003. The energy company decided to close its nearly 100-year-old hydroelectric power plant in November 2003.

Cascade Water Alliance, a nonprofit water supply corporation, intends to purchase the consumptive water rights from PSE, converting Lake Tapps into a municipal water source for its customers.

Members of the Cascade Water Alliance are the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Tukwila, along with the Covington Water District, Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and the Skyway Water and Sewer District.

The water rights issuance was appealed by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the cities of Auburn and Buckley, and a private citizen, Robert C. Cook.

"We believe the board's order ends all existing appeals," Hart said "Once the new water right is issued, new appeals could be filed. We are hoping by addressing the concerns of the parties involved we can avoid further appeals."

A final solution to the seven-year saga of Lake Tapps continues to elude Cascade, PSE and the homeowners around the lake.

"We had hoped the board would not remand the rights," said Mike Gagliardo, general manager of Cascade. "But we have an opportunity now to look at the ROE (water rights) and clear up some things. We continue to have settlement talks with the Puyallup Tribe to make revisions that addresses the appellant's concerns. The Puyallup Tribe is the one appellant that wants to have discussions. We hope if we reach a settlement with the Puyallup Tribe it will address the other appellants' concerns."

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