The Lake Pend Oreille, Pend Oreille River, Priest Lake and Priest River Commission, also known as the “Lakes Commission,” is based in Sandpoint, Idaho. To learn more about the make up and/or mission of the Commission, please visit the “About” page.
Lake Pend Oreille began its lake level drop from the summer pool operational range of 2062′ to 2062.5′ above sea level to a winter pool of 2051’ around September 15. The pool dropped one foot to 2061′ by the third weekend in September and then to 2060.5′ by the end of the month. The winter draw-down elevation for 2014/2015 is 2051′ and will ideally end around Nov. 8th (Idaho Fish and Game requests that it be down by Nov 15th, as a worse case scenario). This date is important to lake shore kokanee who begin spawning at this time. This full draw-down will provide the best environment for the restoration project that will take place in the Clark Fork Delta this winter.
There are currently a number of issues challenging the water levels of Pend Oreille that local communities have adapted to in the last decade. To read about these issues in depth please visit our “Issues” page. The issues revolve around changes to the winter lake level, which has significant impact on what September lake levels look like, and possible changes to our summer lake levels as proposed by the Kalispel Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Both of these topics are very concerning and we need the local community to voice their desires if we want to protect lake levels that we have built our communities around!
Some believe a summer pool of 2062.5′ should be held held longer throughout the year, in order to extend the recreational season. This would mean either extending into winter or beginning earlier in summer.
Holding the lake up all the way at 2062’ during the winter has a number of possible impacts that are not fully understood…
- One possible impact could be increased erosion along the shoreline from winter storms pummeling the high water line.
- Winter flood events. Flood stage on Pend Oreille is set at 2063.5 feet which is only a foot and a half above the summer pool. Rains on snow events are common winter occurrences in this area and in the past these events have increased lake water levels up in the 1.5 foot range.
- Holding the lake at 2062 feet high through the winter would require drawing it down in the early spring to manage spring runoff for flood control. For flood prevention, the lake needs to reach 2056′ by April 1.
- Kokanee remain in their redds through the spring and therefore would be left high and dry when the lake is required to be drawn down in the spring.
Allowing the lake to reach summer pool earlier than it currently does in the summer puts the community at risk during late May early June flood events. On average, over the last 30 years, the lake reaches summer pool by June 20th.
Army Corps is currently modeling drafting water from Lake Pend Oreille in the late summer in attempt to cool downstream water temperatures to benefit bull trout as part of the Kalispel MOA. This practice could have impacts to the lake levels in September or possibly even earlier into August. On June 24, 2014 the Corps spoke about the Pend Oreille River modeling at the Lakes Commission meeting. Please click here to view their presentation. The modeling showed that manipulations in flows could have impact on downstream temperatures, but the future application of this has not been discussed.
To learn more about Pend Oreille lake levels and the Kalispel MOA please visit our “Issues” page.
The management of the Priest Lake fishery is currently being evaluated. The main lake is dominated by lake trout which has damaged the native fishery. Lake trout are suppressed in the upper lake to help maintain a native fishery. Idaho Department of Fish and Game has decided that the lake trout suppression for the upper lake is not sustainable and is now trying to decide what to do in the next management plan. Fish and Game is currently doing a number of studies on the fish species in the lakes, as well as, on angler use on the lakes. A stakeholder group meets bi-monthly to learn about the fishery and discuss the future management of the lake. Please see the “Issues” page to learn more.