Tacoma Water rates take a hike

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

City staff and the Bonney Lake City Council got to open an early Christmas present from Tacoma Water, but no one was jumping up and down for joy.

City staff reported to council members at the Nov. 21 workshop that Tacoma Water was raising its wholesale rates to Bonney Lake.

According to Public Works Director Dan Grigsby, the water supplier will increase rates 8.1 percent in 2007 and 5 to 6 percent in 2009.

Grigsby said the city “doesn't use that much Tacoma Water,” but the hike may affect city rates.

In 2005 the city signed a contract with Tacoma Water to purchase up to 2 million gallons of water per day. The city supplies new customers on the east side of Lake Tapps with the water and supplements the city's system during the summer.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said, “the only reason we are buying new water is for new customers.”

Councilman Jim Rackley pointed out the city has enough water now, but the future is less clear.

The council has directed the Public Works Department to study the cost of buying more water from three water suppliers, the Lakewood Water District, Tacoma Water and Cascade Water Alliance.

The city contracted RH2, a consulting firm with offices in Tacoma, to study an offer from the Lakewood Water District to sell water to the city. The consultant is also considering the long-term cost of buying more water from Tacoma Water and the Cascade Water Alliance. Cascade hopes to purchase Lake Tapps and convert it into a drinking water reservoir if the rights are approved by the state Department of Ecology.

Grigsby said Bonney Lake's comprehensive plan calls for the city to add an additional 2 million gallons per day.

Mayor Neil Johnson said next year the council and staff need to examine the city's future water service area.

“At what point do you create separate water boards for residents outside the city and those inside the city?” Johnson said.

Johnson said he wants the city staff and council to look at Bonney Lake's water service area “with open eyes. What is the impact on the city if we give up water service area?”

Johnson said it might be possible to allow the city of Auburn to take Lakeland Hills into its water service area. A central questions is if Bonney Lake gives up water service area, do rates increase for city residents?

“It could possibly raise the rates,” Johnson said. “ We have to look at the big picture.... We want to make sure what we do is not spur of the moment.”

Dennis Box can be reached at

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