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Cascade, tribes sign Tapps agreement

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Cascade Water Alliance announced agreements have been reached with the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes concerning Lake Tapps, but the members of the Community Council are skeptical and nervous.

Cascade's Board of Directors approved the agreement with the tribes June 25. According to a Cascade press release, the Muckleshoot Tribal Council approved the agreement June 13 and the Puyallup Tribal Council passed it June 12.

Cascade, an eastside water utility, is in the process of purchasing the lake from Puget Sound Energy for $39 million. Cascade intends to use Lake Tapps as a municipal drinking water supply. The alliance was formed in 1999 and is made up of eight cities and water districts.

The agreements, according to Cascade, protect fish, the water supply and recreation in the White River and Lake Tapps.

The lake is filled by water diverted from the White River at the Buckley barrier dam.

“This settles all the issues between Cascade and the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes including the flows (water left in the White River),” said Mike Gagliardo, director of planning for Cascade.

The amount of water in the river before water can be diverted to Tapps is a controversial subject for the community living around the lake.

The Lake Tapps Community Council has voiced objections to the flow regimes previously asked for by the tribes, particularly the 800 cubic feet per second from July 1 through July 23 and 650 cfs from July 24 through Aug. 6.

Community Councilman Leon Stucki said he was, “pleasantly surprised the agreement didn't try to up the flows more in August, but we are not happy with July and the first week of August.”

Stucki pointed out Jay Manning, director of Ecology, stated the water rights issued by Ecology would cause the lake to drop below recreation level no more that 14 days in 15 years.

Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, along with Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney, have been working with the community, surrounding cities and Ecology concerning the water rights for the lake.

Hurst said in his opinion the flow regimes are based on raising the water in the lake by a foot.

“If these flows are based on raising the lake level by one foot we have a whole series of new questions,” Hurst said. “This is a problem that has not been addressed. Who pays for this project? And when I say project, I don't just mean raising the dikes or dams, but the impact on every single homeowner on Lake Tapps.”

Hurst said he was disturbed that Cascade passed an agreement, “and the homeowners never had a chance to see these numbers (flows). Cascade is not issuing this (water) permit, they are the applicant and sometimes I think they forget who will be issuing this permit.”

Tom Loranger of Ecology said Cascade has not submitted a proposal for raising lake levels, “but I know it has been talked about.”

Loranger said raising the level by a foot would help maintain the recreation level because Lake Tapps has so little margin, between 541 and 543 feet. Loranger said most reservoirs have six to eight feet.

Gagliardo said the issue of whether to consider raising the lake level is decades away.

“Any potential impact on lake levels will not happen until we have built the water right,” Gagliardo said. “It will be 15 to 20 years before Cascade begins using water and it would be 2040 before we would talk about raising the lake. There is lots of time to figure out what is going to happen.”

The agreement also stated Cascade will pay the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe a $6.8 million mitigation fund for, “fishery mitigation purposes and activities benefiting the White River watershed, including but not limited to the hatchery capital expenses...”

Cascade will pay the Puyallup Tribe of Indians $8.5 million, with $1.5 million paid as a reimbursement for past cost and the balance as an “operations payment.” The operations account is described in the agreement as using the funds to support approved projects, activities benefiting the White River and “activities related to operations.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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