Troubled waters

  • Sue Waldburger<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:29am

It looks like the Lake Ballinger Community Association has convinced Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace to fish and cut bait when it comes to addressing flooding problems that have plagued lake-side property owners for years.

The two jurisdictions that share the lake near the King and Snohomish county line have agreed to cooperate in a hydraulic and hydrologic study to show characteristics of the outflow system and how they influence the level of the lake.”We’re trying to determine what the impact of lowering the lake would be on McAleer Creek,” said Mike Shaw, storm water program manager for Mountlake Terrace.

“We need to know how the hydraulics work out there,” added Don Fiene, assistant city engineer for Edmonds. “This is nothing new. A group that’s focused and earnest has brought it up again.”

He was referring to the community association.

The cost of the study, which could begin in a few months, primarily would be borne by Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, Fiene said. The estimated cost will be between $15,000-$25,000, Shaw noted. Lynnwood and Shoreline may be asked to share in the cost.Water quality is a separate issue that is being addressed through monitoring by the community association and a year-long study of chiefly phosphorous levels by the state Department of Ecology.Water-quality problems, according to the homeowners’ group, include decomposing material that depletes oxygen and encourages algae bloom, and fecal coliform from goose droppings.

In an attempt to control the latter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is paid by Mountlake Terrace to addle, or oil, Canada geese eggs during breeding season so they don’t hatch and contribute more pollution. They do that once a year.

Edmonds will not participate in the egg-addling effort because the property in question is private, noted Fiene. To do so would set a precedent of the city paying to solve a problem on private land.

“It’s not a new thing,” said Fiene of the flooding, which is most troublesome during the rainy winter months. But that issue — and that of water quality — have resurfaced recently due to a campaign by the community association, which was founded in 1923 and regenerated in 2004.

Led by Jerry Thorsen, association president, property owners have taken their concerns to the Department of Ecology, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace city councils and South Snohomish Cities. Lynnwood and Shoreline councils are next on their list.

“Due to urbanization, the lake has just gotten worse and worse,” said Thorsen, who has lived on Lake Ballinger for about 30 years.

The last major flooding of Lake Ballinger occurred in the winter of 1996-7, Thorsen said. But a high lake level coupled with lots of rain and impeded outflow through culverts that attract beavers and debris blockage result in periodic flooding of lawns, docks and sometimes crawl spaces of lake-front homes, he continued.

Lake levels are dictated by a Snohomish County Superior Court order issued in 1942 and reaffirmed in 1982. They are adjusted quarterly at the McAleer Creek weir (a small dam) on Nile Shrine Center property by officials from Mountlake Terrace.

Due to its design, the weir can only be dropped about 12 inches below the maximum lake level as ordered by the court, Shaw said. So during major storm events, water volume overflows the entire weir and is restricted by a downstream culvert, he explained.

The study will address this issue.

The community association would like to see the court order revisited. An increase in the water capacity of the lake by lowering the lake level 12-18 inches during the rainy season would alleviate most of the flooding, Thorsen asserted.

The only way to lower the lake is through revisiting the court order.

The association also is pushing for revival of an interlocal agreement between Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace that dates back to the 1980s. It had no expiration date but faded away a decade later due to budget and staffing shortages in Mountlake Terrace. The agreement focused on the monitoring of water quality.

Any new agreement, noted Shaw, will focus on new state and local water-quality regulations. “We see the handwriting on the wall,” he said of the inevitability of a revived agreement.

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