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 will hold their next quarterly meeting Friday January 27th from 9 -12 at the Columbia Bank, Sandpoint, Idaho. If you would like to view the minutes from past meetings please visit our “Meetings” page.
Pend Oreille Lake Levels: The Army Corp of Engineers, who operate Albeni Falls Dam, will be dropping Lake Pend Oreille and Pend Oreille River to within a half a foot of their lowest level again this year. The lowest elevation that the Corps can operate Lake Pend Oreille to is 2051 feet and is measured at a gauge in Hope. Note: In 2016-2017 they will operate between 2051.5 and 2052 ft. This is a half foot higher than in previous years. As of today’s date(October 5, 2016), they plan to lower the lake at an average rate of 2 to 2.5 inches a day. Their goal is to reach elevation 2053.5 by October 31st and to be at 2052.8 by November 4th.
Since 2014, the State of Idaho has had an agreement with the ACOE that they will not begin the annual lowering of the lake until the 3rd weekend in September or September 18th, whichever is later. From there it won’t be lowered more than 1 foot before September 25th or the 4th weekend, whichever is later. From then on, it needs to reach its lowest elevation by mid-November to accommodate kokanee spawning. While some kokanee spawn in the tributaries in September, there is a population of lakeshore kokanee who spawn in November. To view the entire agreement please click here.
In the fall of 2016 drawdown didn’t begin until September 21st. These higher September elevations were to support the BNSF Railway bridge repair.
During the winter, the ACOE can fluctuate the lake levels up to 5 feet for winter power generation. This likely will not occur during the winter of 2016/2017. The ACOE has a shoreline project underway and has requested the lake stay below 2052 mid January through February.
Short term modeling forecasts are provided by the Northwest River Forecast Center. Their projections for Albeni Falls Dam inflow, outflow and the Lake Pend Oreille at the Hope gage can be found here:
Projections for future operations at Albeni Falls Dam can be found here:
Priest Lake Levels: The Priest Lake lake level sits at three feet on the gage and should remain there throughout the recreational season. You can access the current lake level here http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=12393000.
The summer of 2015 brought record high heat, high evaporation, low snowpack and low rainfall. This led to difficulties in holding the lake level at full pool while allowing water to flow into the Priest River. This situation brought about a number of questions about the Priest system. The Idaho legislature designated $300,000 to study three issues on Priest including the operation and structure of Outlet Dam; the impacts of raising the lake level in preparation for drought events; and the breakwater structure at the mouth of Thorofare. To read more in depth about these studies please link to the “Issues” page.