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. Please take a look at the agenda here. Please keep in mind this is a preliminary agenda and times may shift.
Priest Lake Water Levels:
Message from Gary Spackman, Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, August 12, 2015 3:30 pm
Last week, shortly after I wrote that water levels in Priest Lake continued to increase, the lake level readings declined slightly. After conversing with the outlet operator and reviewing weather information, we determined that the declines were probably due to the wind. Water levels in Priest Lake are now hovering near the three foot mark. Today, the high lake level reading is 3.01 feet, and the low reading is 2.97 feet. Priest Lake water levels continue to hold at or very near the full lake elevation for the recreational season.
August 5, 2015
After the flow from Priest Lake into Priest River was cut last week from 60 cubic feet per second to 30 cubic feet per second, the daily average Priest Lake water levels increased slightly, although only by two or three hundredths of a foot. Yesterday, many of the gage height readings were 2.99 and 2.98 feet, although last night a few readings dropped to 2.95 feet. An employee of the Department of Water Resources was at Priest Lake yesterday and reported windy conditions. The wind may have caused the variation in lake level measurements. Today (August 5), the lake level measurements are holding at 2.98 feet. A measurement of 2.98 feet is within ¼ inch of three feet and is well within any margins of measurement error.
The Priest Lake weather is forecasted to be cooler with a chance of thundershowers. Cooler temperatures should reduce evaporation and precipitation should increase inflows. Reduced evaporation and increased inflows could increase Priest Lake water levels. As a result, the present release of 30 cubic feet per second from the Priest Lake Outlet will continue, at least until the return of hotter and drier weather. I will monitor the Priest Lake water levels and will request further reductions in flow from Priest Lake to Priest River, if necessary, to maintain lake levels as required by Idaho law.
The United States Geological Survey and the Idaho Department of Water Resources are presently measuring inflows to Priest Lake. The flow data will be helpful in future discussion about management of Priest Lake and Priest River.
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 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.