Tolt Reservoir and Morning Glory Spillway. From

Tolt Reservoir and Morning Glory Spillway. From

Tolt Dam fails another weekly test following windstorm

Seattle Public Utilities will be presenting to the Carnation City Council on Jan. 19.

The Tolt River Dam warning system failed to activate during a regular weekly test for the third time in the last several months, concerning King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

In a statement, Lambert called it part of a “pattern of failures” that erodes the public’s trust and confidence in the dam, which is owned by the City of Seattle. The dam’s reservoir provides water to 1.5 million residents in the area.

If the dam were to fail, the city of Carnation could be flooded with more than 30 feet of fast-moving water in a matter of minutes. In addition to the instances of the alarm failing to activate during tests, last July, the system sent out a false alarm, which led to unnecessary evacuations.

“Since that time, the warning system has failed to activate during its routine weekly test on two separate occasions,” Lambert said in a statement. “Over 1,500 residents of Carnation and the surrounding unincorporated areas rely on the warning system to provide accurate and timely alerts in the event of a dam failure.”

In a statement, Seattle Public Utilities, which maintains the dam, said the utility experienced an audio issue on Jan. 13 with its weekly alarm test following the severe windstorm that moved through Puget Sound earlier this week. It resulted in scattered power outages across the region.

“While the alarm did not sound on Wednesday (Jan. 13) during the weekly test, dam safety monitoring was never interrupted. (Seattle Public Utilities) continues to monitor the dam 24/7 using various technology, including cameras and sensors installed along the Tolt Dam,” the statement reads.

Shortly before the test on Jan. 13, staff conducted a weekly internal test and detected a potential issue related to the audio part of the alert test. Partner agencies were notified, including the city of Carnation.

If there were an emergency, the statement reads, an emergency action plan would be activated that includes King County, Carnation and NORCOM to “communicate timely information to the public.”

The statement also addressed the July 28 false alarm, and states that the utility investigated the issue and replaced a control panel. Staff also met with Carnation officials to discuss the incident and plan short-term repairs and long-term upgrades.

“(Seattle Public Utilities) is prioritizing a system upgrade to the Tolt Dam warning system. Staff have begun designing the system upgrade and are expediting implementation for 2022,” the statement reads.

Seattle Pubic Utilities staff will also be making a presentation at the Carnation City Council meeting on Jan. 19.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

North Bend City Hall. Courtesy of
North Bend approves sewer rate increases

A 2.5% annual sewer rate increase was approved March 2 by the… Continue reading

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

New Fall City Fire Chief is on the job

Chief Brian Culp started in the position at the beginning of February.

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Most Read