SANDPOINT — The level of Lake Pend Oreille is on the rise as Flexible Winter Power Operations resume.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that the Bonneville Power Administration has asked the agency to hold the lake between 2,053.5 and 2,054.5 feet above sea level.
Outflows at the Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River were scheduled to increase from 22,000 cubic feet per second to 24,000 cfs on Monday morning due to increased inflows to the lake following last weekend’s precipitation.
Dam personnel are following best management practices to guard against damage from ice downstream, the corps said. Release fluctuations downstream of the dam will be reduced to 5,000 cfs per day and 2,000 cfs per hour, which is down from 10,000 cfs per day and 5,000 cfs per hour, according to Jon Moen of the corp’s Hydraulics & Hydrology branch of the Water Management section in Seattle.
Due to increased water temperatures and diminishing lake ice area, the guideline of 0.1 foot per day lake level fluctuation will be relaxed until colder temperatures and increased ice buildup are observed, Moen said in the flow update.
The lake’s elevation, as measured at the gauge in Hope, was at 2,053.95 feet on Monday morning. The dam outflow was at 22,000 cfs.
The corps noted that the seasonal water supply forecast for April-July inflow volume is 126 percent of average and snowpack in the Pend Oreille basin is above average.
“We are monitoring the situation for lake and downstream flood risk,” Moen said in the update.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s water supply outlook for the state said early fall was exceptionally wet across the Panhandle region, with high-than-normal amounts of precipitation falling in October and November.
Much of the precipitation fell in the form of snow at higher elevations, which melted some of the early season snow. Mid- and late December storms restored the snowpack back to normal or near-normal levels.
All reservoirs in the region are at or above-normal capacity, except Priest Lake (85 percent of average) and Lake Pend Oreille (91 percent of average). Spring and summer streamflow runoff is currently expected to be near normal, with forecasts ranging from approximately 90 to 110 percent of average.
“There’s a lot of forecast uncertainty this early in the season. As we progress into winter, the clearer the water supply outlook will become,” NRCS said in the Jan. 1 report.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.