Lake Tapps opened for all recreation Thursday, more than a month later than usual.
But the man-made reservoir, which sees water levels rise and fall seasonally, still hasn’t reached its standard recreational level of about 542 feet above sea level.
As a result, the city of Bonney Lake won’t open its public boat launch, and residents who want to take use the lake during the hot holiday weekend will have to do research to make sure they’ll have access.
City Administrator Don Morrison said some private launches might be open, but the earliest the public launch at Allan Yorke Park will be available will be Thursday (July 9).
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“Right now we don’t think it’s a safe enough level for us to open the launch,” Morrison said. “It will mostly be limited to boat owners who live on the lake.”
Lake Tapps typically reaches recreational level by Memorial Day each year. But a major improvement project combined with historically low snowpack delayed the refill of the lake until this week.
Release of the water stored above the Mud Mountain Dam as part of an Army Corps of Engineers project, meant to help with fish migration, allowed access to the lake for non-motorized recreation June 20.
That access was extended to all other recreation, including boating, Thursday.
“We have been able to capture water we likely would not have been able to put into the reservoir,” Chuck Clarke, CEO of Cascade Water Alliance, the lake’s operator, said in a news release.
“There is a severe drought with stream flows as low as 50 percent of the lowest historic flows. Diverting this extra water was a one-time opportunity that Cascade was able to take full advantage of to fill the reservoir.”
Still, Cascade encouraged residents and boaters to check with Bonney Lake and their homeowners associations for specifics about access for each area in the reservoir.
“Some places have more water than others,” said Cascade spokeswoman Elaine Kraft.
She acknowledged not everybody will be able to use the lake because of limited boat launch access, but said water will continue to rise.
“We just wanted to give them the opportunity over the holiday weekend since we’re close,” Kraft said, noting the water level is just below 539 feet. It might rise about six inches per day, she added.
Kraft stressed that boaters might encounter stumps, floating debris and submerged hazards in the reservoir, so everyone was urged to be extremely careful.
The water filling the reservoir is coming directly from glacial mountain areas and is extremely cold, she added, so swimmers should be aware of the threat of hypothermia.
Law enforcement and marine patrols from Pierce County and Bonney Lake will be on duty this weekend.
Parts of the lake bed not covered by water are still closed to vehicles.
Anyone who comes across woody debris or logs can dispose of them in containers at Allan Yorke Park, Pierce County Park and Tapps Island boat launch, Kraft said.
Morrison said the city will re-evaluate whether to open the public boat launch next week. In the meantime, he echoed Cascade’s warning about hazards in the lake.
“We just ask everybody to be especially careful,” he said. “We’re crossing our fingers and hoping there aren’t any accidents this weekend.”