Diversion dam damaged by storm and high water

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The 27 days of rain during December and January took a toll on the White River diversion dam, knocking down about 17 of the 55 panels.

The dam had the same problem last year during a winter storm when nine panels went down. The dam was fixed in March after some serious political acrobats from Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney and Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Bellevue.

Once again the panels will need to be repaired for water to be diverted to Lake Tapps and for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate its fish trap.

The Corps traps migrating salmon and drives them by truck around Mud Mountain Dam to the upper White River to spawn.

Puget Sound Energy owns and operates the dam and Lake Tapps.

The concern of residents around the lake is when the lake will be filled.

Roger Thompson, spokesman for Puget Sound Energy, said “we fully expect the lake to be full by early to mid April. The lake didn't get down as much because of the extended rain and we had a tough time pulling it down.”

A date has not been set for repair of the dam, which the corps will oversee, but Thompson said the dam is still able to divert some water.

Bunney said work has started to get the political wheels rolling to fix the dam, but the goal is to build a new structure.

“I was very pleased to learn there was $1 million in the president's budget (for the new dam),” Bunney said.

Bunney said the money was for design and construction, real estate acquisition and another $500,000 for dam operation.

“In years past we started at zero,” Bunney said. “With money so tight in Congress, I feel more comfortable. Now we need to get the pieces lined up and get the diversion dam put back as soon as possible.”

Dennis Box can be reached at

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