After a really good start, the lake is currently at elevation 21.8 feet, typical for early May and consistent with normal annual operations. However, because of recent dry conditions and forecasts, and significantly earlier than normal snow melt, Corps water managers intend to complete refill by mid-May instead of the usual June 1 target date.
“If we wait until late May, there may not be sufficient lake inflow to get us to elevation 22 feet,” said Ken Brettmann, senior water manager with the Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Getting the lake to 22 feet is extremely important since every inch of water in the 2-foot operating band is needed for fish passage, lockages, and managing water quality throughout the season.
Refilling early last year helped immensely during the record-breaking drought but Corps officials still needed to alter lock operations. Even with the operational changes of the early refill, limiting water usage for smolt flumes, maximizing lockage efficiency and delaying lockages, the lake briefly fell below the 20 foot minimum elevation water managers try to maintain.
“Last year’s challenging drought conditions reinforced how important it is to fill the lake to the 22 foot elevation each year,” said Brettmann.
Depending on conditions, the lake may remain at full pool through June. The official lake level is measured at the Locks. Lake Washington levels may vary due to the natural gradient between the lake and the locks or wind that can push the lake levels up for short durations.
Vessel owners should closely monitor lake elevations and adjust mooring lines as necessary.
More information on Lake Washington’s status is available on the Corps’ Seattle District Reservoir Control Center website at http://bit.ly/NWS-RCC.
Key points to keep in mind
1. The Corps can only control outflow and unless it starts raining we cannot expect much inflow.
2. The Corps has a federal mandate to keep the lake level at a maximum of 22ft to keep from flooding shore services.
3. The Corps keeps water no lower than 20ft (during winter months) but they have to keep locks working for commerce and allow endangered fish to transit the lock so without rain the water level will go down.
How to be prepared
Ed Waddington gave a presentation on the variety of situations that we as floating home owners should watch out for and introduced some solutions.(Low water issues -Ed Waddington)
• First, work with your dock neighbors as a community to solve specific problems on your dock. Every dock has a unique situation.
• Share your discussion about problems and solutions on the FHA Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/FloatingHomesAssociation?fref=ts
• Check your electric, water, sewer, cable and gas lines. If lines are getting stretched call your utility or local business to make adjustments.
o PSE Gas/Electric Emergency: 888 225-5773
• Check businesses listed on seattlefloatinghomes.org and if you find other contractors who can help post them on Facebook.
• Work with dock members to understand the sewer system.
• Make sure you have back check valves in sewer lines.
• If you are on a gravity feed system to your primary tank you may have to add a personal sump tank and pump to transfer your household waste to your dock’s primary sump tank.
• Be proactive and consider having divers check how high you are floating above the bottom.
• Work with your flotation service to design a plan for what to do now and when the water level rises.
• Lighten up. Your house is a boat, if you take weight off it floats higher. Rent a storage unit and temporarily move things off until water comes back. Books, plants, heavy furniture, and appliances may need to be removed or adjusted.
• Work with your dock to see if it is possible and makes sense to temporarily move your house further away from the shore to deeper water.
• If grounded talk to flotation service about adding flotation to keep your home balanced and then remove it when the water level rises.
• When the rises be ready to have crushed barrels replaced.
• If for any reason your house becomes uninhabitable start considering plans for alternative housing.
• Contact you insurance company and discuss coverage.
• Time is short to act this year and many solutions may be short term. It is time to start looking at long term plans.
Floating home owners have historically overcome many obstacles by working together as a community. Now, as always, we are in this together. Use dock meetings to analyze problems and solutions. Utilize the FHA Facebook page as a way to communicate your problems and solutions with other docks.
Seattle Floating Homes Association: http://seattlefloatinghomes.org/
Seattle Floating Homes Facebook Group where you can post questions for other floating home owners and residents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SeattleFloatingHomesAssociation/
SPU Water/Sewer Emergency: 206 386-1800
PSE Gas/Electric Emergency: 888 225-5773
Aqua Dive Services-James Hicks firstname.lastname@example.org 206.782.0157
Flotation Services- Greg Johnston email@example.com 425.652.0205
Chuck Murray – firstname.lastname@example.org 206.709.4292