Water board backs PL projects

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SANDPOINT — The Idaho Water Resource Board adopted a resolution Wednesday endorsing a series of project aimed at preserving access to Upper Priest Lake and ensuring a reliable water level on Priest Lake in drought years.

The endorsement follows a similar endorsement by the Idaho Lakes Commission, which took in a presentation of the projects last month. They include dredging in the Thorofare and construction of an impervious breakwater structure so motorboats can still access the upper lake. The height of the Outlet Bay Dam on the lower lake would be extended to increase storage capacity in times of drought.

The water board is recommending the improvements be implemented “if and when funding and legislative approval becomes available,” according to water board new release that was distributed on Friday.

“The board’s support will allow the Idaho Legislature to move forward with funding some portion of the project,” said board member Dale Van Stone of Priest Lake. Bonner County and the Idaho Water Resource Board also may contribute to the project, he said.

Added State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, “I appreciate the Board’s endorsement of these important projects and their ongoing recognition of the state’s statutory responsibilities on Priest Lake and Priest River. We will be working diligently to try to find the funds and legislative support to help with the needed work.”

The engineers’ estimate of the projects, which were developed by consultant Mott MacDonald, is approximately $5 million.

Local officials expressed optimism at the Lakes Commission presentation that the funding could be secured because the state’s finances were healthy and comparable sums of money have been spent on water resource projects in southern Idaho.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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