Residents rise up against Steel Lake weeds


Staff writer

Homeowners living around Steel Lake are hoping to form a lake management district to fairly distribute the cost of controlling overgrowths of pretty but invasive water lilies, yellow irises and a wispy, fern-like aquatic plant called Eurasian milfoil.

The Federal Way City Council has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. June 17 to discuss the potential benefits and impacts of creating what would be the city’s first lake management district.

A committee of lakefront property owners established a rate structure for what they would pay based on an anticipated 10-year budget that includes underwater surveys, chemical plant control, equipment purchases and ongoing public education.

City water quality specialist Leslie Ryan-Connelly told the council earlier this month homeowners are willing to pay $85 a year for 10 years to participate in the management district.

The plan calls for the city to pay $2,048 a year for the portion of Steel Lake Park that abuts the lake, though Councilman Dean McColgan pointed out the additional on-going cost for city staff to administer district funds. State law requires the city to provide administrative staffing, which could cost $4,000 a year.

Owners of multi-family housing would pay $275 a year, and the state, which owns the boat launch, would pay $3,500 a year.

The Steel Lake committee’s 10-year, $138,780 budget includes $40,000 for annual surveys, $32,250 to kill Eurasian milfoil, $27,000 to control fragrant water lilies and $12,000 to control submerged plants. The committee anticipates spending $4,530 on equipment and $23,000 on public education.

The lake management district would not provide goose control or cleanup because the city parks department already takes care of goose issues.

Tom Dezutter, a Steel Lake committee member and lakefront property owner, said the ldistrict would allow lakefront dwellers to self-tax to care for the health and quality of the lake.

He said the general sentiment of property owners who might be affected by the creation of the district has been positive, particularly because it distributes the cost of managing weeds and native plant growth equitably.

“The good thing about the lake management district is everyone participates,” he said.

In the past, some — but not all — property owners chipped in to chemically kill invasions of Eurasian milfoil and rampant growth of fragrant water lilies and yellow irises.

Though the plan is to eradicate non-native milfoil and to cut back a lot of the lilies, it would preserve at least 25 percent of the lilies because they’re a native species.

“They’re pretty, but if they’re not contained, they’ll grow around the entire perimeter of the lake,” Dezutter said. “There will be plenty of lilies around to be pretty.”

Meanwhile, the district participants will work on furthering public awareness of caring for the water quality in the lake. For example, Dezutter said, it only takes a few strands of milfoil for it to establish itself in the lake. Because of that, the district would educate boat owners on the importance of cleaning off their boats before setting sail in the lake.

Ultimately, the goal for the next 10 years is to fairly control aquatic plant growth to preserve the health of the lake for fish and wildlife. “It’s an important thing for us to do,” Dezutter said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565,

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