Lakes commission meets in Priest River

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—Photo by JUDD WILSON Lakes Commission board members Ford Elsaesser and Linda Mitchell listen as Cynthia Bridge Clark of the Idaho Department of Water Resources answers questions from the audience in Priest River Sept. 23.

PRIEST RIVER — The Lakes Commission met here at the Beardmore Building Sept. 23 to give residents an overview of what’s happening with Priest River, Priest Lake, Lake Pend Oreille, and the Pend Oreille River. Of note, engineer Joel Fenolio of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that USACE would not be storing and releasing water from Lake Pend Oreille this winter. There will be no flexible winter power operations from mid-January to February, he said. The winter minimum control depth for Lake Pend Oreille this winter would be 2051 feet, he explained, and expected it to be at 2061 feet by Sept. 30.

Lake trout removal efforts in Priest Lake cost approximately $30,000 per year, said Rob Ryan of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The non-native fish has inhabited Upper Priest Lake since 1985 and poses a threat to other native fish. The IDFG, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Kalispell Tribe fund the removal projects, which use 30 miles of gillnets to harvest the foreign species over a 7-10 day period annually. The benefit to native fish, said Ryan, has been seen by the increased abundance of bull trout.

Cynthia Bridge Clark of the Idaho Department of Water Resources gave an overview of the Priest Lake management study. She said by December the study team will start the process of selecting consultants to implement a future plan. By next spring, she said the study team will have coordinated with consultants and key stakeholders.

Between spring and summer of 2017, the study team will conduct public outreach and ongoing analysis of the lake.

She added that the official study schedule would be determined with the consultants selected for the project.

Presenters also said that weather forecasts are calling for a warmer-than-usual winter this year, though it should be cooler than the one in 2015.

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