Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog Speak up for Eightmile Lake in the Enchantments

Speak up for Eightmile Lake in the Enchantments

Posted by melanib at May 24, 2023 01:00 PM |

Eightmile Lake is high in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and part of the Enchantments. The dam at the end of the lake needs to repaired. We're asking hikers to speak up to ensure the plan will protect hiking and backpacking opportunities in the area.

Eightmile Lake is high in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and part of the Enchantments, a series of alpine lakes that are the crown jewel of hiking in Washington. In addition to being a treasured hiking destination, Eightmile Lake is also a water source for fish, farms and people.

Eightmile Lake with snowy peaks behindPhoto of Eightmile Lake by JWATERBOY12

Three proposals for a new dam

The Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation Districts have proposed rebuilding Eightmile Dam, and Washington state’s Department of Ecology recently released three construction alternatives for a new dam. WTA has been following the process closely, and we are working with partners and engaging with the Department of Ecology to ensure that the plan chosen is the best for hikers wanting to experience the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and the wilderness we seek to preserve. We’re also asking the community to speak up to protect hiking and camping opportunities in the area.

All of the proposals being considered by the Department of Ecology would require a trail relocation to avoid construction activity. Two of the three proposed options would raise the lake’s highest level by 4 feet, flooding part of the Eightmile trail and areas around the lake. WTA specifically opposes the two alternatives that would raise the lake level, impacting recreation access and altering the scenic quality of this popular area.

impacts to hikers

Eightmile Lake is within the Enchantment permit area. Because of the Enchantment’s popularity for recreation, from mid-May to the end of October camping permits are reserved by lottery system to camp overnight in this area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Because of the popularity of the area, it’s vital to consider the needs of hikers and backpackers in any plan.

In 2016, Chelan County and the Department of Ecology proposed the Icicle Strategy, a series of projects on Eightmile and other dams in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. At the time, WTA supported efforts to protect habitat and increase fish passage, while we opposed plans that called for significant new development in the wilderness. We have continued to follow the project’s progress through different stages of review to engage hikers in the decision-making process and ensure that trails and wilderness are protected with any changes.

After the 2017 Jack Creek Fire burned vegetation surrounding Eightmile Lake, the Department of Ecology had concerns about the dam’s ability to handle increased runoff into the lake. In 2018, the Department of Ecology determined that Eightmile Dam was not meeting safety standards. These safety concerns make construction necessary, and so it’s vital that hikers’ voices are heard during the decision-making process.

Speak up for the Enchantments

Submit a public comment by Monday, June 5, to the Department of Ecology about the Eightmile Dam project, including the following points:

  • WTA opposes alternatives 1 and 2 because the proposed designs would raise the lake level by 4 feet.
  • Construction should not create new impacts to the area’s wilderness character by expanding the footprint of the existing structure.
  • The Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation Districts must plan their construction activities to minimize impacts to hiking and recreation.
  • Any area closures should be planned and publicized prior to issuing camping permits.

Submit a comment today!

yellow and black butterfly dangles from blue flowersPhoto from Eightmile Lake trail by Lisa Elliott