Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille

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.

The Lakes Commission’s next quarterly meeting will be on September 17 in Priest River.  The agenda is not yet compiled, but topics will focus on Priest Lake and the Priest River.

Priest Lake Water Levels:

Message from Gary Spackman, Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, July 30, 2015:

I am committed to maintaining water levels in Priest Lake “at 3.0 feet on the . . . outlet gage” as required by Idaho Code § 70-507.  The level of Priest Lake has risen over the last week.  The gage height is fluctuating today between 2.95 and 2.97 feet.   Yesterday, Karl Duncan, the outlet operator, reduced the outflow from Priest Lake into Priest River from approximately 60 cubic feet per second to approximately 30 cubic feet per second (cfs).  The lake level rose slightly one-to-two tenths of a foot over the last 24 hours.  I will daily monitor the lake level.  If the lake level stabilizes below 3.0 feet or starts to decline, I will ask Karl Duncan to further reduce or to cease releasing outflows from Priest Lake into Priest River. 

 To link to daily updates on the management of Outlet Dam from the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources please click here.

blue-green algae hayden 2015 - 2

Blue-green algae bloom on Hayden Lake 2015

Blue-Green Algae Blooms: Blue green algae blooms have sparked health advisories at Fernan, Avondale and Hayden Lakes in North Idaho.  Blue green algae is a common term for cyanobacteria which are part of the phytoplankton layer in most lakes.  Cyanobacteria can reproduce quickly leading to a bloom due to high air and water temperatures, available nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, and sunlight.  Some cyanobacteria produce toxins that are released when they die and these toxins can be pose a potential health threat to people or animals that consume or inhale water hosting a bloom.

No cyanobacteria blooms have been reported on Pend Oreille or Priest Lakes, but the warm temperatures, ample sunlight and low flows create the potential for a bloom to develop.  Please keep an eye out for water that is an uncharacteristic color or where green mats have formed on the water.  If you see something suspect please call the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality at 208-769-1422 or the Panhandle Health District at 208-415-5220.

Pend Oreille Lake Levels: It’s been hot and dry in the northwest.  This allowed the summer pool to come up a couple weeks earlier than is typical.  The summer pool has been maintained although flows out of the dam are pretty low.  If water stays at these flows we should be set to have a full pool through the third weekend in September.  The Army Corps of Engineers will have their fall meeting on operations at Albeni Falls Dam sometime in mid to late August.  Check back later to learn the specifics.     

The Army Corps and the State of Idaho have reached an agreement that will bring more certainty to the recreational season on Pend Oreille.  Typically the lake will stay at full pool through the third weekend in September or September 18, whichever is later.  The pool can then be drawn down one foot by the fourth weekend or the 25th of September. The agreement also clarifies operations and rational behind these operations for the other seasons.  To view the entire agreement please click here.

Save the Priest Lake Thorofare! The Thorofare is a three mile river that connects the Priest Lake with Upper Priest Lake.  For a hundred years the Thorofare has been kept open to motorized traffic by a quarter mile long breakwater that keeps the waterway from filling in with sediment and becoming non-navigable. The breakwater has been falling apart for some time and recently has allowed a lot of sediment to come in.  Navigating the Thorofare is becoming  more difficult and in time it will become impassable to motorized vessels.   Restoring access and repairing the breakwater will require significant funds and much planning, but the efforts are underway.  If you would like to learn more about the project or provide financial to support, please visit www.priestlakethorofare.com.

Priest Lake

Priest Lake


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