Officials overseeing improvement projects at Lake Tapps say police are closely watching for trespassers after seeing an uptick in all-terrain vehicles and signs of parties on the visibly bare lake bed.
Lake Tapps’ water levels have never been lower while Cascade Water Alliance, the owner of the man-made reservoir in East Pierce County, works to complete multimillion dollar projects. 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.
The lake will drop to 505 feet — from its normal summer levels of about 542 feet — by the beginning of November, said Cascade spokeswoman Elaine Kraft. This allows crews access to the areas under construction.
“We’ve never drawn it down this far,” she said.
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The 4.5-square-mile lake, a popular destination for boating and recreation, is open to the public when the lake is full in summer.
But, Kraft said, access to the lake bed on foot, with all-terrain and other vehicles is strictly prohibited during the drawdown. She said law enforcement, primarily Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, will watch the area closely to curb trespassing.
Kraft said consequences for violators will vary depending on the circumstances, but “they will definitely be cited.”
As recently as last weekend, people were gathering on the lake bed near residences, Kraft said. Families should talk with their kids about respecting the property, she added.
“There will be no tolerance for this,” Kraft said.
The lake bed might have areas of instability, stumps and other protrusions, and soft areas where people might be injured and vehicles get stuck, according to a news release from Cascade Water Alliance.
Joe Mickelson, Cascade’s Lake Tapps operation manager, said people should be just as mindful of safety as they are when Lake Tapps is full.
“We have had two safe summers without drownings,” Mickelson said in the release. “This is because the community has worked hard to make the public aware of dangers. This issue is no less dangerous.”
Nearly 12,000 residents — especially those who live in some 1,500 waterfront homes — watch Lake Tapps water levels rise and fall every year as operators monitor water supply and repair the century-old system.
Cascade Water Alliance — a consortium of King County cities and water and sewer districts — bought the reservoir in December 2009.
Kraft said they are trying to avoid any accidents such as some that happened prior to Cascade’s ownership.