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The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Empty reservoir leaves Sultan all tapped out

Leak at base of dam too dangerous to inspect

  • Sultan water systems manager Mike Williams views the area where water is normally stored behind the city's dam on Cascade Creek, a tributary of the Su...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Sultan water systems manager Mike Williams views the area where water is normally stored behind the city's dam on Cascade Creek, a tributary of the Sultan River. The city is investigating how the water is leaking from the dam.

  • Sultan water systems manager Mike Williams views the area where water is normally stored behind the city's dam on Cascade Creek, a tributary of the Su...

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Sultan water systems manager Mike Williams views the area where water is normally stored behind the city's dam on Cascade Creek, a tributary of the Sultan River. The city is investigating how the water is leaking from the dam.

SULTAN -- Lake 16 is supposed to supply the water needs for the 4,500 people living in the city.
On average, residents use from 500,000 to 1 million gallons of water per day.
Then last week, city workers discovered that most of the water was emptied out of the manmade reservoir. All that's left is the stream that feeds it.
City workers found a leak at the base of the dam. The city does not know how big the leak is, because it is underwater and too dangerous to inspect at this time, public works director Mick Matheson said.
To do the work, city crews need to stop the stream and dry up the lakebed. They're considering building a temporary dam upstream to divert the stream around the work area, he said.
"The cost to repair the dam will be better understood after the damage can be inspected safely," Matheson said.
The city has been able to keep tap water flowing by drawing on water from the city of Everett, which has a pipeline running from Spada Lake. Sultan uses Lake 16 for 95 percent of its water, but can use Everett's water during emergencies and as backup.
At a meeting Thursday night, Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick plans to ask the council to declare a state of emergency. This would allow the city to bypass the process of asking for competitive bids for the repair work.
"It looks like an easy fix at this moment but it's going to take some time," Eslick said.
Without the emergency declaration, the project could take at least two to four weeks longer.
If the emergency declaration passes, the city can hire a consulting engineering firm to design a fix, city administrator Deborah Knight said.
At the moment, people in Sultan will continue to pay the same rate on their utility bills. That could change for the city's 1,300 ratepayers if the water emergency reserve fund is depleted to pay for the fix, Knight said.
"An increase seems unlikely at this point," she said.
The city also is looking for grants to help pay for the fix.
While the Sultan River runs through town, the city can't tap into that as a water supply, because it doesn't own water rights for the river, Matheson said.
The only time Lake 16 dried up before was seven years ago when a pipe broke between the lake and the treatment plant. The problem was solved in less than an hour, Matheson said. The dam was built in 1949.
The dam was inspected six months ago and was declared structurally sound, city officials said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » EverettSultanWater SuppliesBodies of Water

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