Corps disputes Pend Oreille Alliance claims

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SANDPOINT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is disputing Pend Oreille Alliance claims that it is drawing down the level of Lake Pend Oreille by 2 feet in the summer.

“It’s not true,” said Amy Reese, chief of the corps’ water management section in Seattle.

Reese said the corps is not planning any different management scenarios other than the one that’s currently in place. The current plan involves maintaining a elevation range of 2,062-2,062.5 feet through Labor Day.

“We have no plans to change that,” she said.

However, the corps is in the process of studying whether releases of water from the lake in late summer or early autumn can cool the Pend Oreille River below Albeni Falls Dam to improve habitat for listed bull trout.

The temperature modeling is being done in conjunction with an agreement between the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and the Bonneville Power Administration.

The corps is scheduled to present some modeling data to the Idaho Lakes Commission when it meets at 9 a.m. today at Dover City Hall.

Four operational scenarios will be modeled, according to the memorandum of agreement between the tribe and BPA. 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.

Reese said there is “no chance” any of those scenarios taking place this summer.

Moreover, she said temperature management operations cannot be implemented without going through the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes public comment and review.

“If we were to entertain anything outside of our current operating authority, we would have to go through NEPA,” said Reese.

The Pend Oreille Alliance also contends Senate Document No. 9, which dates back to the 81st U.S. Congress in the late 1940s and early ’50s, governs the management of Lake Pend Oreille.

However, the corps contends there are a number of other documents and laws which came after including, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and a 1957 agreement with the state of Idaho that prevents a drawdown once kokanee have started spawning.

“Senate Document No. 9 is one of the initial ones, but it’s certainly not the last,” added Reese.

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