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BPA postpones plan

Agency to study effects of water level changes on Lake Pend Oreille

The Bonneville Power Administration has temporarily shelved its request to raise and lower Lake Pend Oreille by up to 5 feet this winter, with agency officials saying they will study how fluctuating lake levels affect waterfowl habitat, shoreline erosion and boat docks.

To help meet peak electrical demands, BPA had proposed running more water through Albeni Falls Dam, which is part of the federal Columbia River power system. About 16 hours after water flows through Albeni Falls Dam, it reaches the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam, said Michael Milstein, a BPA spokesman.

The strategic storage and release of Lake Pend Oreille water “could potentially be worth millions of dollars to local and regional electric ratepayers,” Milstein said.

But the proposal could lead to lake levels that fluctuate up to 6 inches daily, within a 5-foot range.

North Idaho residents and state lawmakers expressed concerns about potential damage to docks and commercial marinas. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game said the plan could speed up erosion of the Clark Fork and Pack River deltas, damage habitat for diving ducks and increase the spread of noxious aquatic weeds, such as milfoil.

“I recognize the value of this operation in terms of power, but we have to be sure that the value is not at the expense of other concerns,” said state Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover.

BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to hold more meetings about the proposal this spring and summer.

“We want to look more thoroughly at the concerns the community has raised,” BPA’s Milstein said.

Staff writer Betsy Z. Russell contributed to this report.

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