Addressing closures of Juanita Beach | Guest editorial

How does Kirkland address water quality issues at Juanita Beach?

  • Wednesday, June 26, 2019 8:30am
  • Opinion
Kirkland Councilmember Jon Pascal. Photo courtesy of city of Kirkland

Kirkland Councilmember Jon Pascal. Photo courtesy of city of Kirkland

By Jon Pascal

Special to the Reporter

Each summer during especially hot weather, Juanita Bay can experience high concentrations of bacteria or other contaminants that can result in the closure of Juanita Beach Park for several days.

Juanita Beach is one of the city’s most popular parks for swimming because of its sandy beach and summer lifeguards. The city understands that closing the beach is very impactful to all users and staff works hard to prevent closures from occurring. We frequently receive questions from park users about why closures occur and how we can prevent them. I wanted to summarize how the city works to address the issues at Juanita Beach Park.

The city has researched the causes of the water quality problems in Juanita Bay. Studies have found that the unique characteristics of Juanita Bay make it more susceptible to closures than other areas of Lake Washington. Juanita Bay is shallow and the prevailing winds from the southwest trap silt, gravel and bacteria in the bay. As a result, water in Juanita Bay is warm and does not mix as quickly or as thoroughly with water in other areas of Lake Washington. This creates conditions that result in periodic water quality challenges.

Other contributing factors are sediments and contaminants that often flow into the bay from nearby Juanita Creek. Any contaminant in Juanita Creek can adversely affect the water quality in Juanita Bay due to its shallow depth and poor circulation. Sources of fecal contaminants in Juanita Bay can include broken sewer lines, leaking or failing septic systems, wildlife or geese droppings and pet waste. Unfortunately, many well-meaning park visitors feed waterfowl and pet owners do not always keep their dogs away from the swimming area or dispose of pet waste properly.

The combination of factors: the poor circulation of the bay, prevailing winds pushing bacteria to the north, sediment accumulation, warm temperatures in the shallow bay, duck and geese feces, pet waste, and surface water runoff from the creek and shoreline properties result in the periodic closures.

City staff implement multiple water quality improvement strategies every year. To keep park visitors safe, the city works with the King County Swim Beach Monitoring program to actively monitor bacteria levels and to find and address bacteria sources over time. These efforts will continue until water flowing from Juanita Creek consistently meets state standards.

Kirkland also partners with surrounding cities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage the goose population. Juanita Beach Park was designed to be less inviting to waterfowl and park staff actively disrupt roosting. The beach is also cleaned whenever possible, staff work to keep visitors from feeding ducks and geese and Kirkland has ramped up enforcement of leash laws and pet waste disposal at the park.

In general, Lake Washington has good water quality. Studies show that significantly improving the water quality in Juanita Bay requires more water exchanged between the open water of the lake and the bay. While there are engineering solutions that can increase this water exchange, they are hugely cost prohibitive to install and operate and too invasive to get state or federal approval due to impacts to threatened Chinook salmon.

However, the studies also identified that reducing fine sediment deposits along the beach and reducing direct runoff to the bay and creek from fecal material from the park and other adjacent properties would provide the highest and most cost-effective benefits in reducing bacteria concentrations at the beach. Kirkland’s surface water management program is focusing on these actions.

While there are no simple solutions today, the city remains committed to improving the water quality of Juanita Bay and keeping the beach safe for all forms of recreation. New techniques and new technologies emerge every year and Kirkland will continue to explore innovative ideas and solutions to eliminate future closures.

Jon Pascal is a Kirkland City Council member and chair of the Public Works, Parks, and Human Services Committee.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Next year’s elections are already underway | Roegner

The 2021 session of the Washington State Legislature was dominated by the… Continue reading

Screenshot of Voice of America footage from the August 2021 scene at Kabul’s international airport in Afghanistan.
What the Afghan wants to say | Guest column

The American interest in Afghanistan goes back to the Cold War era,… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
King County executive wins battle with suburbs over inquests | Roegner

Since 1854, when Washington was a territory, inquests have been required whenever… Continue reading

In a three-day event ahead of the November 2020 elections, the voting center at Federal Way’s Performing Arts and Event Center saw 1,433 voters, which included 466 newly registered voters. File photo
Editorial: Baseless claims of fraud threaten voter confidence

Without evidence of fraud, it’s those alleging irregularities who are a threat to election integrity.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal told a crowd in Port Angeles he would like to see school districts have the ability to increase their local levies. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)
Message from state superintendent regarding school employee vaccinations

After a year and a half of remote and hybrid learning, my… Continue reading

A Sept. 10, 2020, satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
Editorial: The UN climate report, ‘The Lorax’ and us

The report and the Dr. Seuss classic offer a dire warning — and hope — for responding to climate change.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Look forward to an exciting November election | Roegner

King County Executive Dow Constantine was expected to win the August primary,… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
It’s time to rethink Washington’s long-term care law | Brunell

Time is short, but action is necessary. Gov. Jay Inslee and Democrats… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to work? With new virus strain, maybe not | Roegner

COVID-19 has made the workplace more hazardous because the virus, particularly the… Continue reading