From trash to treasure: a clean and lean idea helps the Lake Geneva community

By Marta Olson

For years, something unpleasant was lurking in the waters of Lake Geneva – disturbing visitors and residents alike. No, not a mythical sea monster, but a 15-foot boat that sank in the lake and had been abandoned years ago. Kayakers and boaters complained about hitting it in the summer months when the water is lower; that it detracted from the natural beauty of the lake; and it was just plain bad for the lake’s ecological health.

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Lake Geneva is one of 760 small and large lakes and reservoirs in King County.

Lake Geneva is located in the suburbs between Auburn and Federal Way, and the shoreline includes a public park, boat launch, woods and private homes. Chris Knutson with King County’s Water and Land Resources Division administers the Lake Geneva Management District, which formed in 2016 to address issues like increased algae blooms, decreased water quality, debris and noxious weeds. In this role, he was tasked with solving the sunken boat problem.

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Chris Knutson with King County’s Lake Stewardship Program.

Chris started with the obvious solution – just pull the boat out of the lake. After meeting with staff from King County Roads and surveying the location, Chris thought he might have a plan. But it required a truck with a winch, flaggers on both sides of the street, a flatbed for transporting the boat and possibly an excavator to help pull the boat up the steep slope from the lake to the road and onto the truck. While the plan was feasible, all the heavy equipment and crew time needed to carry it out added up to about $6,000.

Chris felt stuck; the Lake Geneva Advisory Board wanted the boat gone but the cost would be more than 40% of District’s annual budget. So he started looking into other options. He had never considered waterside removal by boat since no one in his department had that equipment or expertise. He reached out to Deputy Chris Bedker from the King County Sheriff’s Office Marine Rescue Dive Unit to ask about the logistics and legal process of derelict boat retrieval and disposal.

In that conversation, a rather elegant solution was proposed: use the boat removal as a training exercise for Marine Unit deputies. On Nov. 10, the Marine Rescue Dive Unit arrived at Lake Geneva, removed the boat, and disposed of it at a landfill – all for a total cost of $28. The cost savings were lauded by the Lake Geneva residents who were able to see their District contributions spent on other important projects like improving water quality and noxious weed control.

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Deputy Chris Bedker towing the abandoned boat.

There are so many fabulous departments and divisions within King County with expertise in all different areas. Collaborations like this one show how the resources of the County can be combined to solve problems creatively and at the highest possible value for our customers.

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Deputy Ben Callahan prepares the boat for disposal.


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Categories: employees, Field Work, Habitat, Monitoring, science, Stewardship

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