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Army Corps of Engineers: Low Lake Washington water levels may limit boat traffic

Sep 11, 2023, 6:16 PM | Updated: Sep 12, 2023, 4:03 am

MyNorthwest Content Editor

Since it has been unusually dry this summer in Washington, Lake Washington’s water level is significantly lower than normal and steps are being taken to conserve water.

Without any expected September rainfall, the lake could fall below its normal mark of 20 feet for this time of year. Current projections suggest the lake water level could drop as low as 19.75 feet if conditions remain extremely dry for a prolonged period.

While there is only a 40% chance of this happening, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps to conserve water by being even more efficient with the Ballard Locks.

Normally, the lake is kept at a water level between 20 and 22 feet. This year, the Corps was able to fill the lake to 21.85 feet, 0.15 feet lower than the target levels.

“Spring target levels help meet summer water use requirements, providing water necessary for fish passage, navigation, and salinity control. Water is slowly consumed throughout the summer until it reaches the winter level, typically in early December,” the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers stated in an update.

Army Corps Engineer Kyle Comanor said there are a lot of different factors at play in responding to the problem and that they are taking steps to conserv

e water by being even more efficient with traffic in the Ballard Locks and the water coming in and out of the sound.“If we do go to conditions that where we have to restrict commercial traffic, say, next month, it because we absolutely have to,” Comanor said, according to KIRO Newsradio. “We are reacting to very powerful forces, so all of these decisions are made with the entirety of this project in mind.”

Comanor stated they will be decreasing the amount of water released from Lake Washington by maximizing lockage efficiency by increasing the number of recreational vessels in each locking and prioritizing the use of the small locks. As lake levels change, additional measures to conserve water could be implemented.

Comanor said our floating bridges are built to sustain minor changes in water level, but houseboat owners need to prepare for the even lower water levels that could be coming.

“We have already seen the impacts of climate change in summer temperatures, which are clearly increasing in this region,” Comanor said. “So even our baseline is moving when we are talking about normal; this is the new abnormal, and Lake Washington is no exception.”

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Updated: a few seconds ago

Lake Union Tragedy As many of you have already heard, Seattle Boat Company on Lake Union in Seattle, WA fell victim to an arsonist this past week. A dry stack storing 30 boats in racks, and stacked 3 high and roughly 30 feet in the air, went up in flames as high as the neighboring Ship Canal Bridge (about 70 feet) in mere minutes. As many as 42 boats were significantly damaged, and of those, more than 30 completely destroyed. Dry stack fires spread rapidly and destroys everything in its wake. These fires are absolutely devastating to the community, the environment, and more importantly, our fellow boaters. Many of our boats are wooden and with many layers of varnish, make for a very combustible combination. Now is the time to review your insurance polices and personal safety strategies. Please be sure to send your updated insurance to the office.

Water levels rising

The water level is rising due to the Corps of Engineers seasonal manipulations. It is critical that bow, stern and power lines be adjusted to accommodate the change. Tight lines can cause a host of problems, none of them good for either the boat or the dock. Clean marinas are safe marinas

We ask that you use our hazardous waste materials facility at E dock. There are tanks for used oil, antifreeze and bilge water and containers for both small and large batteries - and just left of the men's room is an access door for emptying portable toilets. We have a pump-out service that comes weekly and will service your vessel or port-a-potty for $25 which we will add to your monthly invoice. To activate this call 206-784-1000. Stimson Marina is a certified 5-star Envirostars/Clean Marina business, the first covered, fresh-water facility to be so honored in the state. We are committed to keeping the waters of Salmon Bay and Puget Sound clean and ask your help to make that a reality.

Please separate recyclables from garbage and put them in the appropriate dumpster. There are compost totes at the A, B, C, D, E, F and H dock entrances for food waste, paper coffee cups and pizza boxes. Food waste must be in biodegradable bags which are readily available in grocery stores. Please do not put recyclables or compost in the garbage dumpster. We ask for and appreciate your cooperation in this. Recently the Department of Ecology officially designated a new "no discharge zone" in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea to protect shellfish beds, public beaches and sensitive marine environments from harmful bacteria. Starting May 10th boats will not be allowed to dump sewage, whether treated or not, across nearly 2,300 miles. The zone extends from near Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula to south Puget Sound to the Canadian border, and includes Lake Washington, Lake Union and the Salmon Bay Waterway. All boats will require holding tanks to comply. updated 3/28/2023

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