Letter | Lake water quality issue is storm runoff, not docks
July 19, 2011 · 12:11 PM
The Council is totally missing the biggest problem to the lake’s environmental problems, and that is storm water run off. The storm water from the Lakeview Highlands Drainage Basin 29 ends up on my beach. I have observed the damage to the lake firsthand since I move here in 1979.
The city tells me the damage done is caused by 100-year rain storms. I’ve stopped counting the number of 100-year rain storms we have had since 1979. The city refuses to dredge the silt away. Instead, the city has allowed me to extend my dock by 40 feet to 100 feet and indicated that in the future if I needed to extend it further due to silting, they would allow that, too. It is not just the silt that has come down the hill, but all sorts of pollutants. Every year we have observed paint, cement cleaned from cement trucks, oil from cars and trucks washing off West Mercer Way and all other adjoining streets, soap detergents, as well as all sorts of man-made items that get washed down the ravines and end up on my beach. The Fisheries Department has checked this stream out numerous times — no fish of any kind are interest in PCB’s. I even worry about my grandkids swimming near the outfall. The water arriving in the lake is polluted.
As the silt builds up year after year, it has smothered all lake shore plant life. Vegetation like the photo shown in the June 29 Mercer Island Reporter has long since been killed. The city is responsible for this damage and needs to do more than it has. The rip/rap and little dams recently built in the ravine a few yeas ago were short-time fixes. They have already silted up, and we see no change here at the outfall. The city allowed by permit most of the homes built in this drainage basin (that goes all the way up to QFC) to straight line their storm run off into the creeks and ravines that make up Drainage Basin 29. The excessive volume of storm water has caused high speeds and contributes to bank erosion as it races toward the lake. These homes were built before storm retention systems were mandated. Maybe it is time for the Council to address this problem with new requirements for older homes and the construction of larger storm retention systems in the ravines. This would do more good than mandating three-foot-wide docks with window decking.
There are many drainage basins on the Island, and the damage from silting is large. We homeowners who are getting buried certainly are not going to dredge away the silt at our expense. The City of Mercer Island is negligent. They allowed the problem to happen and have not been serious about solving the problem. Maybe it is time that the city consider dredging the silt away from all of the beaches in all of the drainage basins. The sand and silt may even be saleable. The city should get a standing permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, allowing the city to dredge when it deems necessary and at times suggested by the Corps. This would go a long way to allowing lake vegetation to get reestablished for the little fish. If the city stepped up and took responsibility for silting it would deter lawyers from pursuing the subject. The developer that clear-cut all the trees and built all the houses in the drainage basin uplands in the1960s dumped tons of silt into the lake, damaging my property. He lost a lawsuit for damages and my beach was dredged at his expense at that time. I see the city as guilty as those builders in permitting and mainlining polluted storm water and large amounts of silt into the lake.
Instead of the Council dreaming of more restrictions on waterfront homeowners, maybe their time would be better spent addressing the city’s responsibility to their community; their lake; their habitat and their fish. I’ve suggested a few fixes in this piece.