Lake Tapps is full again, and will remain that way for the next several months of recreation season.
But starting this fall, residents of the scenic East Pierce community will see water levels drop to their lowest in more than a decade.
Nearly 12,000 residents — especially those who live in some 1,500 waterfront homes — watch the levels rise and fall every year as operators of the man-made reservoir monitor water supply and repair the century-old system.
Now Cascade Water Alliance, the owner of the lake that manages it as an eventual drinking water source, is spreading word early about the unusual drawdown ahead of major maintenance and replacement projects.
Those plans include replacing a plywood flume with concrete, seismic improvements to one of the dikes, and inspecting pipes and gates that control water flow to and from the White River.
Total project costs will range between $11 million and $16 million, said Cascade CEO Chuck Clarke.
Clarke said the water must be significantly lowered so workers can walk through the pipes that carry water from the lake to the river.
“If we’re lucky, we won’t have to do this again for 50 years,” he said. “We’re hoping this is a one-time project.”
The 4.5-square-mile lake, a popular destination for boating and recreation, will maintain its normal summer water levels at about 542 feet above sea level.
Residents will start to see the water level drop about a foot a day beginning in September, and within a month to six weeks it will have dropped to 505 feet, the lowest level since 2003.
During typical offseason drawdowns, water levels at Lake Tapps are restored by April 15. Clarke said the projects will delay that process, but the lake should be back to summer levels by Memorial Day 2015.
Cascade spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said residents can also take advantage of the empty lake by inspecting and repairing their docks and other waterfront structures. She said all the permit application material and Cascade licensing information will be available at a public meeting Wednesday night.
Leon Stucki, a representative from the Lake Tapps Community Council, isn’t planning any big projects at his waterfront home. But he said others should seize the chance.
“Anybody that has ever wanted to do major work on their docks or bulkheads,” he said, “they’re not going to get any better opportunity to access them.”
Stucki said Wednesday’s meeting is a great excuse for residents to learn more about operations at the reservoir.
“I think it’s important for them to understand the lake needs to be maintained, and to better understand how the lake works,” he said. “It’s a really complicated system.”
Cascade Water Alliance — a consortium of King County cities and water and sewer districts — bought the reservoir in December 2009.
The change of ownership came after Puget Sound Energy had to close its White River hydroelectric plant powered by the lake, which the community rallied to preserve. The sale was finalized in 2009.
IF YOU GO
What: Community meeting to discuss Lake Tapps drawdown and Cascade Water Alliance improvement projects.
When: Wednesday 6-8 p.m.
Where: North Tapps Middle School, 20029 12th St. E.Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 email@example.com @KariPlog