Reservoir tour: Myrtle milestone revealed during Beacon Hill visit

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That video clip shows something we might never get to see again – the underground view of a 50-million-gallon reservoir before it’s filled. (That’s 250 times what it takes to fill Southwest Pool.) This is Beacon Hill Reservoir (map), one of four reservoirs the city is putting underground — two of the other three are in West Seattle, and when we joined various city officials including Mayor Nickels for the Beacon Hill underground media tour this morning, we learned about a milestone happening today at Myrtle Reservoir here in West Seattle:


You can’t see it from that above-ground photo, of course, but “final acceptance testing” has begun at Myrtle today – testing all systems together for about a week, after a period of testing each system individually – and if that goes well, the reservoir could be filled as soon as next week. We also got some info on the Highland Park project to put West Seattle Reservoir (map) underground – read on for that, other views beneath Beacon Hill, and some words from the mayor:

The main difference between Myrtle Reservoir and the one we toured today is size: Myrtle will hold five million gallons; Beacon, ten times that. But otherwise, Seattle Public Utilities‘ Stephanie Murphy told us, the design’s the same – the contractor’s the same. And she talked about the upcoming project to cover West Seattle Reservoir at Westcrest Park:

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SPU also tells WSB that a public meeting will be set in the near future to give West Seattle residents information about this new reservoir project — probably in mid-July, at Highland Park Elementary School; we’ll let you know as soon as it’s set. Meantime, before taking media crews underground, the mayor noted that four reservoirs in all are going underground, saying they were all set for “floating covers” before he proposed doing it this way instead.

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The mayor says the reservoir-undergrounding plan is creating 76 acres of park space citywide (some of it of course is at Myrtle; see our coverage of the latest design plans). But back to the coolness factor. Here’s a closer look at one of the 624 30-foot-high, two-foot-wide columns supporting the Beacon reservoir lid – water will go all the way up to the bottom of the square at the top:

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26,000 cubic yards of concrete are involved here – more than 93 million pounds, according to an SPU info sheet. The reservoir’s “footprint” is six and a half acres. One last look at what will soon be underwater at the bottom of those six and a half acres:

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The park space created here will be under construction sometime next year, as will the Myrtle Reservoir park. OTHER TIDBITS FROM THIS MORNING’S EVENT: The mayor has his own hard hat, gold with “Mayor Nickels” on the front (the rest of us had to borrow them from the construction company); he arrived and left in his black Toyota hybrid SUV/van-type vehicle, and mentioned he was just back from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (he didn’t point this out but a city press release yesterday noted he was elected vice president, which means he’ll be its president next year) meeting in Miami, which led to a sound bite you might consider schmaltzy, but really, it kinda rings true on a day like today:

24 Replies to "Reservoir tour: Myrtle milestone revealed during Beacon Hill visit"

  • CM June 25, 2008 (1:22 pm)


    Any work if they are going to expand Westcrest Park over the resevoir when they cover that?

    That would be pretty nice.

  • CM June 25, 2008 (1:23 pm)

    Oops, I meant “word”, not “work”.

  • WSB June 25, 2008 (1:31 pm)

    If you are able to listen to Stephanie Murphy’s soundbite – I wish I could caption but I don’t quite have the bandwidth for that just yet, working on it – she explains exactly which part of it will be covered with more open space and which won’t – apparently the open reservoir there is about twice as big as the underground reservoir will be (capacity-wise, anyway). Interesting history of WS Reservoir here:

  • Bikefor1 June 25, 2008 (2:02 pm)

    It looks like a Roman or Egyptian ruin!! Very cool indeed.

    But is it earthquake proof? ;-)

  • JimmyG June 25, 2008 (2:20 pm)

    What’s old is new again.

    I wish I could link one of my photos from my trip to Turkey in ’07. The reservoir looks like the famous and ancient “Basilica Cistern” or “Yerebatan Sarayi”.

    Put that into Google images and you’ll see the striking similarities.

  • fiz June 25, 2008 (2:21 pm)

    Did those guys wipe their feet?

  • OP June 25, 2008 (3:13 pm)

    Wow! That is amazing! Especially how they could fit Mayor McCheese in there!

    (Seriously, that’s an awesome piece of engineering. And thanks for the rare glimpse into a pre-water filled reservoir!)

  • WSB June 25, 2008 (3:19 pm)

    I hate to bring it up and I do NOT want to encourage this line of discussion because it’s one of our no-no zones here on WSB — I am a Person of Size myself — but since you mention it, I noted to myself that he looks smaller (not so obvious with the orange vest, I was probably quite a balloonish sight myself in orange vest over black pinstriped suit blazer). Last campaign, he was clearly on some kind of a program before the election. Problem with those, and I can attest from decades of experience, is that your body wants to bounce right back the minute you even let up a bit from draconian dieting and massive amounts of exercise. Sorry to digress, now I have to get back to three other things in the hopper.

  • elgrego June 25, 2008 (3:54 pm)

    Big, but only when they fill that reservoir with sharks will I be impressed.

  • JanS June 25, 2008 (5:48 pm)

    JimmyG, I googled the Basilica Cistern…amazing likeness…

    and Elgrego…could we have a viewing window if there are sharks?

    definitely an amazing structure…gee…ever wonder what’s under your neighborhood? :-p

  • elgrego June 25, 2008 (6:32 pm)

    No viewing window for the sharks. We can threaten West Seattle’s petty criminals with an interesting swimming lesson when they’re caught, though.

  • Bob June 25, 2008 (6:33 pm)

    The Water Dept. considered a 68 million gallon reservoir at Westcrest to be adequate for that area in 1932. Now, in the age of just-in-time everything (JIT), the City has shrunk the same reservoir to 30 million gallons. Why is this beneficial? Well, the answer is that it isn’t, all things being equal.
    But probably they just couldn’t afford to build it out at full size, given the cost of the re-planned project. It was most likely only the high cost of the new mega-reservoir that led to this excision of 56% of capacity.
    Poke me with a stick if I’m wrong about this, but someday we will have to pay to build another mega-reservoir just like this somewhere else in the city, at some future cost level, to make up for this pint size mega-project.

  • credmond June 25, 2008 (7:09 pm)


    Nah! By then global climate change will be in full swing, the Cascade snowmelt will be a trickle and we’ll have to put up with a desalination plant somewhere near the Fauntleroy dock. At least we’ll be “closer to the source.”


  • CB June 25, 2008 (7:27 pm)

    This reservoir is far too close to a school and possibly a church. I want it torn down immediately.

  • elgrego June 25, 2008 (7:57 pm)

    Where will we put the sharks?

  • Indaknow June 25, 2008 (9:11 pm)

    It would make a great skateboard park!!!!

  • d June 25, 2008 (9:47 pm)

    I think it would make a great skateboard park too.

    Seriously. The view from the reservoir is expansive – looking both north and east. But more importantly, I think most kids and families in this neighborhood would truly appreciate and welcome a skateboard park, even a postage stamp-sized one.

  • miws June 25, 2008 (10:10 pm)

    WSB, Did you call out HELLOHELLOHellohello…….ECHOECHOEchoecho…..? :P



  • helium3 June 26, 2008 (1:17 am)

    [quote]This reservoir is far too close to a school and possibly a church. I want it torn down immediately.[/quote]

    I think we need a community meeting to discuss your proposal until we have achieved consensus.

    And yeah, the Basilica Cistern is very cool.

  • Lizzy June 26, 2008 (10:23 am)

    I went to to look at beacon yesterday and it was really cool. Someone there told me they fully wash and clean the inside before they fill it – so to answer your question about wiping their feet!
    The picture of the park that’s being put in was awesome – it made me wish west crest was going to be put underground rather than covered with one of those tarp things. I think the construction guy said 645 cement beams are holding it up – and from the look of it I think it seems sturdy. It looks like an underground city or like tomb raider.
    really cool!

  • WSB June 26, 2008 (10:43 am)

    Lizzy – as reported in our story, Westcrest IS being undergrounded. There are no more “floating covers” in the works (the mayor made that pretty clear). Also we did mention the number of columns in the story above: 624.

  • acemotel June 27, 2008 (8:51 pm)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Nickels up for election next year? So how could he be pres. of the conf. of mayors if he isn’t mayor any more?

  • WSB June 27, 2008 (10:24 pm)

    The election’s not till fall 2009 and if he lost or declined to run again, he wouldn’t be out till early 2010.

  • acemotel June 28, 2008 (8:39 pm)

    thank you!

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