September 23, 2012 in Outdoors

Field reports: Lake drawdowns affect recreation

 

OUTFLOW – Fall drawdowns are starting at some area reservoirs, triggering other activities from fishing to paddling.

Lake Coeur d’Alene’s annual drawdown began Sept. 4 to take the summer level of 2,128 feet down to 2,127 by the end of September. The increase in Spokane River flows out of Post Falls Dam is welcome by downstream anglers.

Starting in October, the drawdown rate will increase to about 1.5 feet a month. The winter level of about 2,122 feet should be reached by the end of December.

Priest Lake’s drawdown begins Oct. 8, marking the unofficial beginning of a three-week paddling season on Priest River. Generally too low for canoes during summer, Priest River takes on new life as flows are increased.

The drawdown generally is complete by early November, bringing the lake down from a 2,427 feet summer elevation to the winter level, 2,424 feet.

Lake Pend Oreille’s slow drawdown is set to begin soon. Idaho Fish and Game, the Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration agreed Tuesday to bring the level down from the current 2,061 feet to a winter level of 2,055 by Nov. 15.

That level is higher and better for fish survival than the 2,051 level set for winter in some years.

Lake Roosevelt’s level can fluctuate, but likely will stay around 1,284 for the next month or two. The annual drawdown won’t start until midwinter based on snowpack and forecasts for spring runoff.

Huge drawdowns the past two years to handle near record runoff flows have flushed a high percentage of the lake’s trout and kokanee out of the river through Grand Coulee Dam. The result has been a significant decline in fishing success.

Some camps open on national forests

CAMPING – Concessionaire-operated campgrounds on most of the area’s national forests have closed for the season, but self-contained campers still have options.

For example:

• Sullivan Lake’s West Campground remains open with a vault toilet well into November.

• Coeur d’Alene National Forest will allow camping at Kit Price, Big Hank, Bumblebee, Honey Suckle and Berlin Flat campgrounds through Oct. 21.

BPA to hold line on wildlife spending

WILDLIFE – The Bonneville Power administration is trying to hold down spending on wildlife programs, such as those carried out by the region’s tribes.

The agency spends hundreds of millions of dollars on programs in the Northwest to mitigate hydropower impacts to fish and wildlife. The belt-tightening won’t stop efforts to meet court requirements, officials say. But as expenditures have grown rapidly in recent years, the agency has some wildlife project partners to trim budgets by 10 percent.


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