Senator proposes million-dollar fee for false alarms at Tolt Dam

If passed, the bill would require Seattle Public Utilities to pay Carnation $1 million after any false alarms at Tolt Dam.

Sen. Brad Hawkins (R), representing the 12th Legislative District, announced on April 19 his intentions to pre-file a bill for the 2025 legislative session that, if passed, would require Seattle Public Utilities to pay the City of Carnation $1 million after each future false alarm at the Tolt Dam.

“If Carnation leaders feel the issue has been adequately addressed and residents have confidence in a reliable and functioning warning system, there won’t be a need to pursue this legislation,” Hawkins said. “But, if this issue isn’t resolved in a satisfactory fashion by this summer or fall, I have no choice but to pre-file the bill because my job is to represent this community in Olympia.”

The announcement comes less than a month after residents experienced the eighth false alarm since 2020 at the Tolt Dam, a critical water supply infrastructure managed by the City of Seattle. The March 27 false alarm reinvigorated the community’s resentment of the City of Seattle’s continued dam mismanagement.

“This is a demonstration of willful disregard of prioritization,” said Carnation City Councilmember Jessica Merizan during a March 28 press conference following the latest alarm. “Or perhaps it’s weaponized incompetence that has led to systematic apathy … It’s an injustice to all the rural communities that hydrate major urban areas across the county.”

The $1 million paid to Carnation by Seattle Public Utilities would be allocated to road improvements, emergency evacuation preparations, mental health counseling to address the PTSD and stress caused by the alarms, and other community activities to directly benefit the city’s residents, according to the bill.

Hawkins, who was elected to the Washington State Senate in 2016, is confident the bill will pass.

“One might think that the very powerful Seattle legislative delegation would block the bill, but I wouldn’t assume that necessarily,” Hawkins said. “Those legislators are smart and compassionate people. Once they learn what is happening, I believe they will understand why this legislation is necessary.”

Carnation remains united in its goal to hold the City of Seattle accountable for its malfunctioning alarm system, said Carnation Public Information Officer Ashlyn Farnworth.

“Senator Hawkins heard the concerns from the Carnation community and swiftly took action,” Farnworth said. “The City of Carnation is encouraged by the overwhelming support we’ve received from our elected officials in Olympia.”

While the state Legislature will not meet again until January 2025, the bill may be pre-filed in December.