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 has reached the summer pool operational range of 2062′ to 2062.5′ above sea level. It should stay in this range until mid-September when the drawdown will begin. The pool will be a the lowest 2061′ for the third weekend in September and will may reach 2060.5′ by the end of the month. The Corps will hold a public meeting in Priest River on August 27, 2014 to review operations at Albeni Falls Dam and water levels on Pend Oreille. The Lakes Commission will inform the public on the specifics of that meeting when it is made available.
This past fall the lake was drawn down a full two feet by September 30 at the request of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The Lakes Commission does not support the practice of drawing the lake down two feet by Sept. 30 each winter. Currently BPA is requesting that this be standard practice for years that the lake is to be drawn down to 2051′. The Lakes Commission holds that this practice limits fall recreation on the lake and has historically not been needed to bring the water down to 2051′ by the start of shoreline kokanee spawning. The Lakes Commission submitted and will continue to submit a request each summer that the lake level only be drawn down one foot by September 30 to support fall recreation on the water. Please click here to read a letter from Governor Otter to the Lakes Commission addressing the September drawdown.
The Lakes Commission supports both a healthy economy and environment for our local waterways. In support of both of these goals we cannot support holding Lake Pend Oreille at 2062 feet through the winter. This concept 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.
- Another impact could be 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 occurances 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. Kokanee remain in their redds through the spring and therefore they would be left dry from the spring drawdown.
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. 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.
Erosion and other impacts from the Flexible Winter Power Operations are not fully understood even though the operation is standard on full drawdown years. Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game recently announced that they can not prove that kokanee benefit from the higher winter pool. Without the benefit of 2055′ to kokanee the lake will be drawn down to 2051′ every winter which means that the fluctuating can occur yearly. If a different lake level is desired a Systems Operating Request would need to be submitted to ACOE. This request would need substantial rational to be considered.
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.