Low water level on Lake Union threatens floating homes

VIDEO: Floating homes on Lake Union may be at risk

SEATTLE — The iconic floating homes of Lake Union may be at risk because of what engineers are calling “the perfect storm” of conditions this summer in Washington.

“No snow pack, really dry spring, and just a really hot summer and high evaporation,” said Ken Brettmann, senior water manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Homeowners packed into a room in the Puget Sound Yacht Club to get answers from Brettmann. Lake Union’s water level is already at 20 feet, which it typically reaches in the winter, not the height of the summer.

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Brettmann predicts that by October, the lake will be at 19 feet, a low it hasn’t hit since 1987, when it was measured at 19.5 feet.

Amalia Walton, president of the Floating Homes Association, said some homes close to shore already rest on the bottom a little bit; more, and they could be damaged.

“The bottom of a floating home is not flat,” she said, “and the lake is not flat, so it's not just going to come to a rest nicely on the bottom.”

Then there's the problem of pressure on water and sewer lines on homes.

“So if you can imagine an upland home sinking beneath the sidewalk, all those connections are going to start to get really tight and then they could break,” Walton said.

Brettmann said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been doing what it can, cutting back on water for fish passage at the Ballard locks and using the smaller of the locks to allow vessels through when possible.

“We're certainly planning for the worst,” he said. “We could certainly look at more lockage restrictions-- it's a possibility.”

Walton said home owners discussed options on Monday night.

Some with space on their docks have moved their homes farther away from the shore, which is a very involved process.

Others, Walton said, are consulting with utilities and plumbers and even considering storing some furniture to reduce the weight of their homes.

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