Rising water threatens to flood homes near Lake Serene in Lynnwood. (Genna Martin / Herald file)

Some Lake Serene homeowners oppose fee to fix drainage

EVERETT — Homeowners vented frustrations Wednesday over Snohomish County’s response to drainage problems at Lake Serene, where crews recently finished emergency work to install a temporary outflow pipe to lower water levels.

A few also warned they might join a legal claim that has the potential to turn into a class-action lawsuit seeking damages for flooded yards and basements.

The comments came during a public hearing over whether to impose a new fee on lakefront property owners to help pay for a long-term fix.

“I really believe that the burden should be shared with the entire watershed around us,” said Jennifer MacLean, who moved to her home in 2011 and grew up in the area.

Several homeowners noted the lake isn’t just private property, with a public fishing access maintained by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under the county proposal, 95 lakefront property owners would pay an extra yearly fee of $197 over 10 years. That would pay for just over 20 percent of an $850,000 drainage system, with the county picking up the rest.

The hearing is set to resume at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Many who spoke to County Council members objected to paying extra, given that the water flows into the lake from hundreds of homes, not just those on the waterfront. County officials contend that homes nearest to the lake are receiving an extra benefit — not flooding— that others in the watershed do not.

The levels on the lake in unincorporated Snohomish County near Mukilteo and Lynnwood go up and down seasonally. Concerns with the outflow on the west end have been ongoing since at least 1981. Many locals blame urban development permitted by the county for making flooding worse in recent years.

The lake reached an all-time high Feb. 17. In the weeks before that, it became apparent that the outflow pipe had become blocked or had collapsed. County leaders authorized emergency work to build a 537-foot bypass pipe to bring levels down. That work was completed March 10. The lake’s surface has since dropped about 9 inches, surface water management director Will Hall said.

Despite the criticism of the cost-sharing proposal, a recent survey conducted by the county showed that 67 percent of affected property owners supported the idea.

Another 14 percent preferred doing no additional work, 6 percent favored a private solution that wouldn’t involve the county, and 13 percent selected “other.”

The damage claim was filed Feb. 22 by homeowners Marc and Joan Bhend, who have lived on Lake Serene for 37 years. It requests $76 million in damages on behalf of the Bhends and all other lakefront property owners, based on an average value of $800,000 per home.

Along with the county, the claim names the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several state agencies with a role of managing the lake.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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