Work to reduce Lake Ballinger flooding is paying off, city says

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    With some Lake Ballinger flooding behind him, Lynnwood resident Vasiliy Perekop finds some high ground Friday while fishing near the Ballinger Park boat launch in Mountlake Terrace.
    With some Lake Ballinger flooding behind him, Lynnwood resident Vasiliy Perekop finds some high ground Friday while fishing near the Ballinger Park boat launch in Mountlake Terrace.

    After receiving almost five inches of rainfall so far this month, the water level of Lake Ballinger has caused some flooding of Ballinger Lake Park and reached heights that could bring concern to some residents near the shoreline. But efforts in 2013 and 2014 to help keep the lake below dangerous levels are paying off, according to the City of Mountlake Terrace.

    This pedestrian bridge was one of three bridges built in 2013 and 2014 to replace restrictive pipe culverts that McAleer Creek was forced to flow through. Increasing the water flow of the creek, which serves as the outflow for Lake Ballinger, has helped lessen flooding around the lake, the City of Mountlake Terrace says.

    Chad Schulhauser, City of Mountlake Terrace Public Works Director, pointed to three new bridges over McAleer Creek as to the reason that the water level at Lake Ballinger hasn’t gone beyond critical flood stages this week despite all the recent rainy weather.

    “Studies showed that the new culverts would reduce flooding,” Schulhauser said, “and with visual observation we have seen that.”

    One vehicular bridge and two pedestrian bridges were built in the summers of 2013 and 2014 to replace culverts that McAleer Creek passes through on the grounds of the Nile Golf Course in Mountlake Terrace; a new weir was built at the creek’s headwater in 2013.

    McAleer Creek serves as the outflow to Lake Ballinger, and previous culverts the creek passed through restricted the amount of water that flowed out of the 104-acre lake.

    A fourth culvert, beneath I-5, is still in place and continues to impact water capacity of the McAleer Creek. But Schulhauser maintains that the City’s work to replace the old culverts at Nile Golf Course is significant.

    “We have gone from four choke points in the creek down to one,” he said.

    A 1981 Snohomish County Superior Court ruling ordered that Lake Ballinger water levels be maintained between 276.8 and 277.8 feet, and that the 277.8 foot mark be exceeded only once every five years. In addition to the improvements made to McAleer Creek, weirs – small walls or dams – are in place to regulate the amount of water that enters and leaves the lake.

    According to the City of Edmonds, which monitors lake flooding here, the water level of Lake Ballinger has exceeded 278 feet much of this past week, including above 279 feet on Dec. 9 and 10.

    While lake levels have reached an “orange alert level” on the City of Edmonds’ scale, no residential flooding has been reported this past week.

    Due to recent heavy rains, ducks were the only ones able to appreciate parts of Ballinger Park Friday as Lake Ballinger and Halls Creek overflowed their banks in some portions of the park.
    Due to recent heavy rains, ducks were the only ones able to appreciate parts of Ballinger Park Friday as Lake Ballinger and Halls Creek overflowed their banks in some portions of the park.

    Flooding has been seen at Ballinger Lake Park, but that isn’t necessarily unexpected during periods of heavy rain. City of Mountlake Terrace officials admit that due to the low topography of the park, flooding is going to occur there – and have even made plans to live with it.

    The city’s Ballinger Park Master Plan, approved by the Mountlake Terrace City Council in September, includes plans for pathways, docks and stairs that “would be built of durable materials that withstand flooding,” and that areas in the 42-acre park are designated wetlands to moderate expected flooding.

    With more heavy rain expected over the weekend, the water level of Lake Ballinger and current flooding of small portions of Ballinger Park are expected to change little over the next 48 hours. You can view current water levels of the lake here.

    — Story and photos by Doug Petrowski

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