By Lyndsie Kiebert
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began Flexible Winter Pool Operations (FWPO) on Lake Pend Oreille Jan. 1 at the request of the Bonneville Power Administration, meaning that lake levels could rise up to five feet and then be dropped when needed in order for the Albeni Falls Dam to produce more power.
“Although FWPO may fluctuate Lake Pend Oreille between elevations 2,051 to 2,056 feet at the request of BPA, the current operation plan utilizes a small portion of this range,” Corps officials stated in a Jan. 4 update.
The winter lake level on Lake Pend Oreille is typically 2,051 to 2,051.5 feet, measured at the Hope gauge, with summer pool measuring between 2,062 and 2,062.5 feet. On Jan. 5, under FWPO, the lake sat at just below 2,052 feet.
“We store water in Lake Pend Oreille for FWPO when power demand is low relative to the amount of water flowing through the system, then release that water at a future time when power demand is higher,” USACE Senior Water Manager Jon Moen told the Reader in an email. “For this past weekend we were storing water in Lake Pend Oreille; this operation reduced power generation at a time when it was not needed as much, and saves that water to be released at a later time when the power generation would be needed more.”
Moen added: “We plan to hold this stored water in Lake Pend Oreille until BPA requests we release it for power generation,” but did not share when BPA might be making that request.
Lakes Commission Coordinator Molly McCahon suggested waterfront homeowners and those looking to utilize local boat launches take steps to stay informed about the Corps’ flexible operations. To track Lake Pend Oreille’s levels and see forecasts, visit nwrfc.noaa.gov and select the plot point for the “HOPI1” gauge, located in Hope. Beneath a graph of the current and predicted lake level, there is a link reading “For Data Used In Plot.” Click there to access a complete list of elevation readings.
People can also sign up for email updates from the Corps by contacting [email protected] and requesting to be put on the mailing list for daily Albeni Falls Dam updates.
McCahon also suggests that “if you have infrastructure on the lake bed within that five-foot elevation rise, secure it if not already secured.”
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