Lake proposal stirs concern

DOVER — Questions greatly outnumbered answers Thursday when the Pend Oreille Basin Commission took up a proposal to use water from Lake Pend Oreille to aid threatened bull trout and other fish below Albeni Falls Dam.

The Kalispel Tribe of Indians reached an agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July to investigate the feasibility of releasing water from the lake in late summer or early autumn in an attempt to cool the Pend Oreille River below the dam to improve habitat for bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and other cold-water fish species.

“Warm water to a trout species is basically a death sentence,” said Craig Brengle, natural resources manager at the corps’ Albeni Falls Dam.

The corps is conducting a three-phase evaluation of whether water from the lake will even be effective in reducing temperatures below the dam.

The proposal involves the release water after Labor Day, although officials from the corps and the tribe aren’t ruling out the possibility of a release prior to the holiday.

“We don’t have a timeline figured out yet,” said Brengle.

Four operational scenarios will be modeled, according to the memorandum of agreement between the tribe and the feds. They include drafting 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet from the lake after Labor Day. One modeling scenario involves drafting 4 1/2 feet from the lake starting Aug. 15.

The proposal is being greeted warily in Bonner County and some are against the prospect of a lower lake level while the boating season is still under way.

Waterfront landowners fear that their docks would be rendered useless and their property values would be diminished. Public boat launches could be left high and dry, which could hamper tourism.

Todd Sudick said officials from Bonner and Kootenai counties should have been brought into earlier discussions. The basin commission, which advises the state on water quantity and quality issues, has only recently been brought into the discussion.

Sudick insisted that an economic impact study be done to assess the effect the plan would have on the community.

“That needs to be done,” said Sudick, a member of Bonner County’s Waterways Advisory Board.

Ray Entz, the tribe’s director of wildlife, emphasized that the proposal in its very early stages.

“Don’t take away from this meeting that something is going to happen tomorrow because that’s not the case,” said Entz.

Entz said the tribe chose a collaborative approach to sorting through the issue to avoid the possibility of litigation and potentially dictatorial court ruling that ends up benefiting no one.

“We don’t want to go there,” said Entz.

But the commission has bristled that it wasn’t brought into the discussion sooner.

“We just hope that we could be part of the process,” said basin Commissioner Linda Mitchell.

Read More News

Ahmadinejad allies say Iran leader told him not to run again

AP

September 26, 2016 at 7:02 am | Close allies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say that Iran's supreme leader recommended he not run in next May's presidential election because he is a polarizing figure among hard-liners

Read More

Health care and bank stocks pull US indexes lower

AP

September 26, 2016 at 7:27 am | US stocks are sliding as drugmakers lead health care companies lower and banks fall

Read More

Syrian foreign minister says cease-fire agreement 'not dead'

AP

September 26, 2016 at 6:43 am | Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem says an internationally-brokered cease-fire for Syria is still viable

Read More

Police: Man dead in SW Idaho after shooting at officers

AP

September 26, 2016 at 7:03 am | Authorities in southwest Idaho say a man died Monday morning after driving to the Garden City police station where he exchanged shots with officers before crashing into the building

Read More