Lake Tapps refill underway, water levels to start rising this week

Months after Lake Tapps was drained to historically low levels for maintenance projects, its operator has started refilling the man-made reservoir.

The refill started over the weekend, and residents should start seeing water levels rise by the middle of the week. The lake in East Pierce County is expected to reach recreational levels — about 542 feet above sea level — by Memorial Day weekend, according to a news release from the Cascade Water Alliance.

The rate of refill will depend on available river flows, according to the release, but spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said officials don’t anticipate problems staying on schedule even with the reduced mountain snowpack.

“We’re on target,” she said Monday.

Lake levels will return to normal after more than seven months of significant repairs, maintenance and improvements. The work included replacement of a plywood flume with concrete, seismic improvements to a dike, and inspection of pipes and gates that control water flow to and from the White River.

The lake dropped this winter to a level of 505 feet, the lowest since 2003.

“The weather has been extremely cooperative this winter, allowing us to stay on schedule as we’ve addressed significant challenges discovered during the condition assessment of this 100-plus year old system,” Joe Mickelson, Cascade’s Lake Tapps reservoir manager, said in the release.

Cascade Water Alliance — a consortium of King County cities and water and sewer districts — bought the reservoir in December 2009. It plans to use Lake Tapps as a municipal water source several years from now.