By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
The fall drawdown of Lake Pend Oreille will commence on Monday, Sept. 19, marking the beginning of the slow season for local waterways.
According to a news release from the Lakes Commission, an advisory board to the state of Idaho that advocates for water quality and stewardship in the panhandle, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers typically initiates the drawdown “after Sept. 18. or the third Sunday, whichever is later” with the use of the Albeni Falls Dam. Until Oct. 1, the lake will remain at or above 2,060 feet at the Hope gauge, which is about two feet below summer pool.
The lake will gradually be lowered to winter pool — about 2,051 feet — leading up to Nov. 15.
“Winter pool elevation needs to be reached by Nov. 15 so shoreline kokanee spawners are not left high and dry,” said Lakes Commission Executive Director Molly McCahon. “Kokanee are an important food source for threatened bull trout and many other species.
“Actual operations may differ depending on changing hydrologic conditions,” she added.
While the lake is lowered, it gives dam operators and the Bonneville Power Administration the opportunity to manipulate flows and harness more hydropower in the winter — a system known as Flexible Winter Pool Operations.
McCahon told stakeholders that FWPO are “rarely needed,” so the Lakes Commission would prefer “Lake Pend Oreille not be used as the dial for this infrequent operation.”
“There are plenty of reservoirs on the Columbia River System less populated and less dependent on year-round water recreation,” she said. “At 2,051-foot winter pool, scenic beauty is lessened, there is far less fish habitat and our abundant boat launches and dock systems are left high and dry, making mooring and access very difficult for our active fishing groups and emergency response teams.
“There was a time when Lake Pend Oreille was held at 2,055 feet in the winter, but the last time that occured was 10 years ago, in 2012,” she added.
In a typical year, the lake reaches summer pool by mid-June. McCahon reports that summer pool wasn’t reached until July 3 this year due to the cold, wet spring bringing on a late peak runoff.
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal