Nation/World

Lakes Are Far Short Of Shipshape North Idaho Waterways Still Plagued By High Water, Debris, Submerged Launch Sites

Summer officially is only two weeks away, but North Idaho’s lakes still are out of shape for the beachcombing and water-skiing season.

Still bulging from melting snow and back-to-back rainstorms, waterways are cold and bobbing with logs, root wads and other junk.

If, as expected, the sun breaks through the clouds this weekend, it will reveal lakeshores battered from spring’s abuse.

Kootenai County’s estimate of $5 million in flood damage around Lake Coeur d’Alene doesn’t even include docks.

Finding room to throw down a towel on shrunken beaches heaped with debris could be a challenge. Getting boats in the water might be harder than usual, too.

“Many lakes are still high, so it’s difficult to launch large boats,” said Ned Horner of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “People have to back way in and often get their feet wet.”

It may not be worth the trouble on most lakes in Bonner County, where emergency no-wake zones still are in force a half mile from shorelines.

A no-wake zone still is in effect on all of Priest Lake, where the lake level is 3 feet above summer level, and businesses are getting a slow start.

“I’ve heard many people say this is the worst they’ve seen it as far as high water goes,” said Patton Mann, who runs the restaurant at Priest Lake Marina.

Lake Pend Oreille is higher than it’s been in years. On Thursday, it was at 2,065.8 feet - more than 2 feet above flood stage.

The National Weather Service expects the level of the lake to peak late this week and stay high through the weekend. That means plenty of debris still is being swept into the lake.

Lake Coeur d’Alene continues to drop, but boaters still need to exercise caution.

The St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers are “still pumping junk into the lake system,” said Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy Kevin Mumford. “If I owned a nice boat, I wouldn’t take it out on the water.”

The Sheriff Department’s boats will be out, however.

“It’s the beginning of the year, and people are itching to get out on the water,” Mumford said. Deputies will be checking to make sure boats are registered and are carrying the proper safety equipment.

Once boaters do get on the water, they might be disappointed in the condition of some of their favorite spots to disembark. And they might want to pack along an extra pair of shoes.

“Last time I was out to Windy Bay (boater park on Lake Coeur d’Alene), it was still underwater,” said Terry Kincaid of the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM closed the park until crews can get in and clean up damage from the winter ice storm and spring flooding.

The Killarney Lake boat launch site also is closed.

“One dock is sitting on top of its pilings,” Kincaid said. “We want a little time to put those things together before we start having a lot of visitors.”

Walkways to shore are submerged at many of the boater parks and docking facilities that are open.

Authorities are discouraging boaters from venturing into the Spokane River, which still is raging through the Post Falls dam at top speed. Boats are prohibited downstream from the Spokane Street bridge in Post Falls for safety reasons.

The dangerous river conditions required a radical change for Spokane Riverboat Queen Capt. Dennis Walton.

“We’re not operating on the river,” Walton said. “We gave that up when it was predicted that they wouldn’t close the dam (gates) until July.”

The riverboat now is docked yearround at Booth Park, one mile east of Tony’s Supper Club on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: BOATERS, BEWARE A no-wake zone is in force on Priest Lake and a half mile from shore on Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River. Debris still is clogging waterways and beaches. Windy Bay boater park on Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Killarney Lake boat launch site are closed. The Spokane River is navigable but dangerous because of the strong current above Post Falls dam.

Cut in the Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: BOATERS, BEWARE A no-wake zone is in force on Priest Lake and a half mile from shore on Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River. Debris still is clogging waterways and beaches. Windy Bay boater park on Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Killarney Lake boat launch site are closed. The Spokane River is navigable but dangerous because of the strong current above Post Falls dam.



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