The Ballard Locks in Seattle, empty for inspection.
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The Ballard Locks in Seattle, empty for inspection.
Credit: KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

Take out Ballard Locks, state senator says

With calls to take down dams on the Snake River to help salmon habitat, a Whatcom County Republican wants to take a look at changing some of Seattle's major waterways.

State Senator Doug Ericksen said he's got a bill ready to go that would direct the state to study the impact of removing the Ballard Locks.

"I think the people of Seattle don't understand what the impacts are of actually removing dams on economic activities," Ericksen said.

"If all of a sudden we restored Lake Washington to its traditional historical natural level, you would increase it by about 10 feet.

"Many people in Medina would lose their property, the Boeing facility would be underwater. So those are major economic damages that occur from going back and trying to change things that have been put in place."

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed off on a $750,000 study of removing four dams on the Snake River to help restore salmon runs. Supporters of the idea say that could in turn help Puget Sound's struggling orcas, which rely on the salmon for food.

Ericksen's Whatcom County district is home to three Skagit River dams that currently provide 20 percent of Seattle City Light's power. He said he'd like to study taking those out too, along with daylighting Seattle's Ravenna Creek.

"There would definitely be environmental impacts -- you could say benefits, you could say challenges -- just like there would be in Eastern Washington with taking out the Snake River dams," Ericksen said.

Ericksen said he plans to introduce the bill in the next state legislative session, which starts next January.