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 Tuesday May 2nd from 9 -12 at the Beardmore Bldg, Priest River 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(ACOE), who operate Albeni Falls Dam, operate Lake Pend Oreille between lake elevations 2051 and 2062.5. Elevations are measured at a gauge in Hope.
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 then it won’t be lowered more than 1 foot before September 25th or the 4th weekend, whichever is later. 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 2016/2017 the above average rainfall in October prevented the lake from reaching its lowest level in time for kokanee spawning, so it was held at 2052.5.
During the winter, the ACOE can fluctuate the lake levels up to 5 feet for winter power generation. Fluctuation occurred during the winter of 2016/2017 due to flooding downstream in the lower Columbia River. Due to above average precipitation, the lake has held close to 2056 from late March thru April. This is approx 4 feet higher for this time of year.
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 gauge 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 Priest Lake and River water management. 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.