News

Tapps sale moves forward

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The sale of Lake Tapps appears to be within reach, but legal and political twists and turns are looming.

Mike Gagliardo, general manager for Cascade Water Alliance, said an agreement between Puget Sound Energy, owner of the lake, and Cascade was reached last week.

“The final draft of the package will go to the attorneys for Cascade to look over,” Gagliardo said. “We are targeting it to go before the Cascade board for consideration at the February meeting.”

The Cascade board will meet at 4:15 p.m. Feb. 27 at Bellevue City Hall.

Cascade Water Alliance is an association of five cities - Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Tukwilla. Also in the alliance are the Covington Water District, Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and Skyway Water and Sewer District.

The purchase agreement will have to be approved by Cascade Water Alliance's eight-member board of directors who are elected officials from the cities and water districts. Each city or water district appoints an elected official to serve a two-year term on the board.

PSE and Cascade reached a basic agreement in 2005. Cascade was to make a $10 million down payment and pay another $27 million when the drinking water rights are approved by the Department of Ecology and any legal appeals are ended.

The timetable for the sale and the terms of the agreement changed in September 2007. The mayors of the cities surrounding the lake - Neil Johnson of Bonney Lake, Pete Lewis of Auburn and Sumner's Dave Enslow - offered PSE $33 million for the lake without any delay of payment for water rights appeals or approvals.

PSE met with the mayors and Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, but passed on the offer, citing an exclusive negotiating agreement with Cascade.

Since the cities' offer, rumors have been swirling about the purchase and possible changes in the structure of the deal between Cascade and PSE.

Gagliardo said the purchase agreement is “basically the same, but there are some differences in the details.”

Tension between the cities and Cascade became evident following an October 2007 meeting between the mayors, Gagliardo and Grant Degginger, chairman of the alliance board and mayor of Bellevue.

The three mayors had requested to meet with all board members from the alliance, but only Gagliardo and Degginger showed up.

Lewis described the meeting as disappointing.

Hurst said a “conclusion to this process would be good for all, but my primary focus is on the homeowners and communities around the lake. What comes out in the water right and the lake levels are critical.”

Ecology is close to releasing a revised drinking water right for the lake, which will also determine the minimum in-stream flows for the White River.

The in-stream flows, which can influence the lake level, have been a controversial subject concerning the lake.

Tom Loranger from Ecology said the final version of the water right is not quite ready to be released. He said Cascade will need to complete the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) or environmental impact statement for the water rights.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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