Carnation officials meet with Seattle reps over Tolt Dam

City officials are pushing Seattle leaders for compensation associated with living beneath the dam.

Carnation officials held a meeting with representatives from Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office on Dec. 8, as they continue to request compensation for risks they incur living beneath the Tolt River Dam.

In a statement announcing the meeting, the city said it would “like to see compensation attached to the risks” of living beneath the Tolt Dam as well as other community benefits. That could include franchise or mitigation fees, fines for false alarms on the dam’s alert system, or funding for annual evacuation drills, the city said.

“The time for excuses and explanations is over,” Mayor Jim Ribail said in a news release. “Carnation wants to see outcomes.”

It is unclear if the city of Seattle would consider those suggestions. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office redirected comments to Seattle Public Utilities, who manage the Tolt Dam. Sabrina Register, a spokesperson for SPU, said the city had a productive meeting with Carnation officials, and “will continue working through any issues in partnership with them,” but did not address a question about potential compensation.

The dam has been a source of frustration for Carnation officials since its emergency alert system mistakenly went off several times over the past three years. The false alarms prompted the Carnation City Council to declare a state of emergency last August.

Since that declaration, city officials have led a concerted and multifaceted campaign seeking to draw attention to the alert systems’ failures and the threat the dam poses. Last month, after a replacement warning system was installed, Carnation held a press conference labeling the new system inadequate.

Over the past few months, Mayor Ribail has repeatedly emphasized the city, which sits downstream of the Seattle-owned dam, bears all of the risk but gets none of the benefit.

The city of Seattle uses the dam’s reservoir to supply its residents with water, while also selling some water to other municipalities. Carnation has its own water source and gets no compensation from the city of Seattle.

Carnation officials emphasize the city has never had input on the dam or its management, even though the dam was built decades after Carnation became an incorporated city. According to a History Link article, Seattle first applied for water rights on the Tolt River back in the 1930s and the dam’s reservoir first started delivering water to Seattle residents in 1962.

“After historically being a silent partner, the City of Carnation will now be an active partner in project management, safety operations, and strategic communication,” City Manager Ana Cortez said.