Spring runoff damages forest roads

Lake level continues to steadily rise on schedule

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Snowmelt runoff and extended heavy rains have resulted in high volumes of water running through creeks in area forests, in some cases damaging U.S. Forest Service roads.

According to USFS officials, Grouse Creek road has seen significant flood damage and is closed upstream from Mile Marker 2.

An aerial view of the damage to Grouse Creek Road after Grouse Creek overflowed its banks. Photo by Jesse Marshall.

High water was recently reported at Mile Marker 10 on Lightning Creek Road, but USFS reports that the water has since receded. However, parts of the road have been eroded.

In addition, USFS roads in the Lakeview area are accessible, but the roadbed is extremely soft in some places.

“Please avoid driving on soft roads and be aware that out-sloped icy mountain roads can increase your risk of sliding off the road, particularly when passing another vehicle,” said Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesperson Michelle Norton. “In addition, driving on soft roadbeds also can cause significant rutting and resource damage, which results in costly repairs.”

Norton said visitors traveling on forest roads are encouraged to be mindful of changing conditions and snow at higher elevations. 

“Be sure to check the weather forecast before venturing out, as we still have snow up in the high country,” she said. “As the snow continues to melt and spring rains create soft trail and road surfaces, it is important to be on the lookout for flood and landslide damage.”

Contact the nearest ranger station for current conditions.

Despite the rising waters in the mountains, Lake Pend Oreille is on track to reach summer pool in mid-June, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which operates Albeni Falls Dam and manages the lake level — predicted earlier this spring. By dramatically increasing outflows over the past week in response to the heavy runoff and added rain, the Corps has kept the lake level rising at a steady pace.

Summer pool in Lake Pend Oreille is 2,062 feet above sea level. As of noon on June 3, the lake had reached 2,060.3 feet.

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