Monday, January 12, 2015

People and fish benefit from White River/LakeTapps partnerships

By Dan Partridge, communications manager, Water Resources Program

Imagine enough water to fill a football field 130 miles deep.

That’s the amount of water that will stay in the White River forever thanks to a permanent donation of water rights to the state’s Trust Water Rights Program by the Cascade Water Alliance .

The trust water donation is the largest in the history of the trust water program and in conjunction with another water rights donation from Cascade – a temporary donation – will ensure that adequate flows for fish stay in the White River until 2034 and beyond.

Cascade, the water purveyor for five King County cities and two water and sewer districts, is making the donations in conjunction with its purchase of Lake Tapps in Pierce County from Puget Sound Energy (PSE). In exchange for Ecology approval of the water right transfers needed to make Lake Tapps a future municipal water supply, Cascade agreed to donate some of the water rights it acquired in the purchase of the lake to the protection of flows for fish in the river.

As large as the water right donations are for the White River, larger still are the benefits to the environment and economy resulting from Ecology’s partnerships with Cascade and the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes.

Strategic partnerships

"Big things happen when the state, local governments and tribes come together to form strategic partnerships,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

First off, back in 2008, the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes signed an agreement with Ecology pledging to work together to restore flows in the White River.

Then in 2009, after lakefront property owners feared Lake Tapps would be drained with the end of PSE’s hydropower operations at the lake, Cascade purchased the lake as a future drinking water supply for Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, Tukwila and the water and sewer districts.

Final step to ensure flows for fish

With Ecology’s approval of the water rights package needed to keep the lake filled for the benefit of surrounding homeowners and recreationists and to secure it as a municipal water supply for as much as 50 years into the future, there remained a final step to ensure flows for fish in the White River. That will be accomplished on Jan. 17, with the transaction completing Cascade’s donation of a portion of its water rights from the Lake Tapps purchase to the Trust Water Rights Program.

Today, Cascade is investing millions of dollars to develop Lake Tapps as a municipal water supply and as a community and recreational asset for boaters, swimmers, anglers and surrounding homeowners.

And in a plus for the environment, flows for fish in a 20.7-mile stretch of the White River flowing through the Muckleshoot Reservation will be protected for perpetuity. Smart water management and strategic partnerships have come together for the benefit of people and fish in Pierce County.

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