Proposed reservoir expansion raises concerns in Bridle Trails

A group of students on a recent field trip, sponsored by Bridle Trails Parks Foundation. Neighbors are concerned that the city of Bellevue
A group of students on a recent field trip, sponsored by Bridle Trails Parks Foundation. Neighbors are concerned that the city of Bellevue's project to expand water storage facilities by 6.5 million gallons, could damage the serenity and treescape of the state park. The Pike's Peak reservoir is one of several sites still being assessed.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo, Bridle Trails Parks Foundation

Tucked in the southeast section of Bridle Trails State Park, the Pike’s Peak reservoir, a 24-foot tower, is barely visible from most walking paths. But a growing demand for water storage in the city of Bellevue threatens to disrupt some of that tree-line.

Pikes Peak was one of four main locations assessed in a 2010 report by the city, which hopes to select a site for expansion in the coming months.

“Without addressing this need, development and redevelopment projects in the northwest end of the city will be constrained until additional storage is developed,” reads the Bellevue Utilities site. “Bellevue will be unable to fully implement long-range plans important to the continued vitality and quality of life for its citizens, visitors and employees of businesses within the city.”

Bellevue has 27 reservoirs, totaling 42.5 million gallons of storage. But the city's growth rates – most particularly in downtown Bellevue and the Spring District, are expected to lead to a storage deficit as soon as 2016. A site for the additional 6.5 million gallons needed in the West Operating Area hasn’t been selected, but a 2010 report by the city, ruled out other locations, to suggest splitting the added volume between Pike's Peak and Woodridge Reservoirs.

The proposal has raised concerns among some Bridle Trails neighbors who question the impacts of the bigger footprint on a state park. A 2010 report estimated that between 80 and 120 trees would be cut during construction. Residents also worry about the appearance of the replaced water tower, which if constructed would be 48 feet tall, the height of a five-story building.

“That doesn’t fit the natural landscape,” says Ken Hite, president of the Bridle Trails Parks Foundation. “That would involve significant tree cutting and close the busiest trail in the park. There are, from our perspective, a lot of downsides.”

In 2002, the state threatened to shut Bridle Trails because of funding shortages. Bridle Trails Parks Foundation, a nonprofit, that year entered a 40-year contract with Washington State Parks to provide half of operating costs, which Hite says has been successfully met so far. But despite early assessments in 2010, it was not until fall of last year that Hite first learned of Bellevue’s expansion plans.

Pike’s Peak is preferred largely for its higher elevation and what upfront, appears to be a cheaper cost. Sites at Meydenbauer and Kirkland Watershed Park were ruled out early on, but after the community raised concerns, the city vowed to expand the search to include private lands. The city of Bellevue has promised to revisit site options, though Hite and other residents are skeptical that it is truly a return to the drawing boards. An early timeline for the project had hoped to have a site selected by the end of the year. Paul Bucich of the city of Bellevue says it now hopes to present site recommendations to the council, in February or March of next year.

To move forward with construction in Bridle Trails, Bellevue would have to negotiate contract or lease agreements with the state. Permitting would also be controlled by King County, an added price tag that wasn’t present in the cost analysis, says Hite.

“My personal take on this is that they’re having to build this water tower to support additional high-rise construction and development in downtown Bellevue and they’re building to support redevelopment of the Bel-Red corridor,” says Hite. “…We shouldn’t be taking park lands, which are already a scarce resource, just because it’s the cheapest way out.”


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