Residents are fed up with flooding
September 3, 2009
By Tim Pfarr
Newcastle residents who live on the north shore of Lake Boren have dealt with wintertime flooding for years. In 2007, Robert Patterson said so much water flooded his crawl space that he had to pay $4,000 to repair his heater.Patterson, as well as his neighbors David Gillett and Frank Drange have written numerous letters regarding the flooding, asking city officials to take action. In January 2008, Patterson said he no longer had the time or money to fight the city, but his neighbors share his concerns, and they have since taken up addressing them by consulting a lawyer.
On Aug. 18, attorney Jane Ryan Koler sent a letter to the City Council on behalf of the association of homeowners that live on the north end of the lake, and she urged the city to maintain the outlet of the lake to keep its water level from rising.
“Allowing flooding, which dumps dirt and debris into Lake Boren, is a violation of the Water Pollution Control Act, which prohibits the discharge of polluting matter into waters of the state,” Koler wrote. “The city either needs to perform its duty to maintain the south outlet to Lake Boren or compensate association members for the damage to their residential properties.”
However, city officials say they are doing what they can, and that the lake is healthy.
“I can guarantee that we’re not ignoring the issue,” said Doug Alder, communications manager.
Maiya Andrews, public works director, said the city has an ongoing permit from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to clear beaver dams on the lake’s outlet. The city has no other permits to clean the outlet, and city officials said it would likely be difficult to obtain such permits, as the outlet naturally flows slowly with a low gradient. With a low gradient, they said dredging the outlet would likely do little good, as the amount of material displaced would not be sufficient to alter the outlet’s flow.
The lake’s inlet — China Creek — is channeled through concrete as it approaches the lake, and Newcastle Director of Development Steve Roberge said this causes the creek to flow unnaturally fast. Silt and dirt naturally flow down from above the concrete channel, as it is common for bits of the shoreline to be swept away by the current, he said.
The dirt and silt periodically build up and clog the lake’s inlet, and as a result, the property bordering the inlet can become flooded.
In 2004, city workers cleared the lake’s inlet with a backhoe, but dirt and silt subsequently clogged the inlet once more. The city has applied for a permit with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to once again clean the lake’s inlet, but it has not yet received word on whether it will receive one.
Andrews, Roberge and Alder were not city employees in 2004 and were unable to comment on the effectiveness of the 2004 dredging.
However, Andrews said it is not the city’s obligation to clean the inlet and outlet of the lake. She said individual property owners could contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife to obtain permits and carry out their own projects to protect their property.
Many homes on the lake were built on what would later be declared wetlands, so those property owners are required to have their actions certified by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Andrews also said the flooding of the lake is a natural process and therefore not an act of pollution. She said the city has received word from King County that Lake Boren is a stable and healthy lake.
Andrews said only one resident of the lake’s north end has come to her regarding flooding inside of a home.