Lake Union is reaching nearly record-breaking low levels, which means the Ballard Locks has to cut back on water for the fish ladder and avoid using the large lock.
The Army Corps of Engineers typically maintain the water level between 20 and 22 feet, officially measured at the Chittenden Locks. But according to Kiro TV, Lake Union is now at 20 feet, which is threatening floating homes on the lake. The regional drought is mostly to blame, according to Ken Brettmann, senior water manager with the Army Corps of Engineers. “No snow pack, really dry spring, and just a really hot summer and high evaporation” is to blame, as Brettman told Kiro at a recent meeting for owners of floating homes at the Puget Sound Yacht Club.
The record low level for the lake was 19.5 feet in 1987; Brettman predicts Lake Union could get down to 19 feet by October if conditions persist. The Army Corps has been doing what they can to alleviate the situation by limiting the amount of water used to operate the juvenile salmon flumes used to provide smolt safe passage into the Puget Sound. Normally the Corps uses four flumes, but they’ve reduced it to one in order to save water.
As Brettman said earlier this summer, the managing the lake level is all about balance.”This year will be extremely challenging and we’re balancing water conservation across lines to minimize impact to commerce, fish and the public,” he said.