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Speak Up to Protect the Enchantments & Wilderness

Posted by Christina Hickman at Jan 26, 2021 04:57 PM |

The Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is an iconic hiking destination in Washington. A proposed dam project on Eightmile Lake and other water projects have a new open comment period through Feb. 1. Join WTA in speaking up to reduce impact and ensure the project doesn't set new precedents for activities in wilderness areas.

The Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of Washington's most iconic hiking destinations. It is also home to a dam in need of repair.

In 2018, we asked the WTA community to submit comments on the Icicle Strategy, a group of projects focused on water issues in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We've continued to track this project, and this week, we need hikers to join WTA in speaking up for the protection of trails in the Enchantments and ensuring unprecedented actions aren't taken in wilderness areas.

The project has now progressed to the Washington Department of Ecology, where it is undergoing an open public comment period. The department invites the public to provide comments on their existing SEPA Environmental Impact Statement until Feb. 1, 2021. Filling out and receiving comments on this document is a required step that land managers must take to ensure your feedback is included.

Hiker voices needed. Sign the petition below to join WTA in letting the Department of Ecology know you care about protecting this iconic place.

Eightmile Lake in the Enchantments is one of the focal points of the proposed projects laid out by the Department of Ecology. Photo by Janette Powell.

The Project Details

The project proposes repairing the Eightmile Lake dam. The Department of Ecology’s Office of Dam Safety is requiring repairs following the 2017 Jack Creek Fire that resulted in the classification of the lake as “high-hazard.”

According to the Department of Ecology, the project’s objectives are:

  • Restore the storage capacity of Eightmile Lake so that it meets irrigation and storage needs
  • Comply with the Dam Safety regulations for a high-hazard dam
  • Provide additional water to enhance Icicle Creek instream flow volumes and potential mitigation of new beneficial uses

To reach these objectives, the project will require the use of heavy machinery to adjust the height of the dam. It will also likely cause periods of closure in the surrounding area for hikers due to the construction.

SOME ISSUES: Impacts and Long-term Implications for wilderness

It’s important that these dams meet safety needs, especially when classified as “high-hazard,” so making sure that the water levels and the dam itself addresses irrigation and storage needs is a good thing.

Landscape and trails impact. As a popular destination, we want to make sure this project minimally impacts Eightmile Lake and its surrounding areas while also maintaining hikers' ability to visit or camp there. The use of machinery for this project could impact the trails, especially if the machinery itself is transported to the project area over the trail.

Wilderness precedent. Additionally, we want to ensure that this project does not set a precedent for further machinery use in wilderness areas. According to the Wilderness Act of 1964, motorized machinery should not be used in wilderness areas.

More details needed. We’re also concerned that there just isn’t enough detail in the SEPA on how the construction work might impact the trail on the north shore of Eightmile Lake, and that there aren’t enough details on when the project would occur, how the public would be notified, and how long closures might be.

Consult tribes. It’s also important that the appropriate agencies engage in consultations with local tribes as appropriate given their sovereign status. This landscape is within many of their usual and accustomed treaty rights relating to hunting, fishing, gathering and resource management considerations.


The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is among the most visited wilderness areas in the United States and one of the state’s most treasured hiking destinations. Each year, thousands of hikers vie for coveted permits to backpack through the Enchantments region, a several mile stretch of alpine lakes, craggy mountain peaks and fragile meadows.

To make sure that hikers can enjoy this unique place and experience, we are sending in a petition to the Department of Ecology with the signatures of hikers like you. Public comment for this project is being accepted through Feb. 1. Please add your voice to our petition below to help us let the Department of Ecology know that no precedent-setting actions should be taken in wilderness, especially in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.