The Idaho Water Resource Board has voted to spend $2.4 million on upgrades to Priest Lake recommended by a recent study, bringing the project within $150,000 of the full $5 million in funding it’ll need next year.
Gov. Butch Otter is recommending $2.4 million in state general funds for the project next year, and in November, the Bonner County Commission approved a $50,000 contribution toward the project, which will include upgrading the outlet dam, replacing the breakwater, and improvements to the Thorofare between the upper and lower lakes to keep it navigable.
“We’re really close, and I think we can get there,” said Dale Van Stone, Idaho Water Resource Board member; he said he’ll work with the Lakes Commission, Friends of the Thorofare and Bonner County to cover the remaining cost of the project. “Maybe the county could provide some in-kind support to help ensure we have the necessary funding,” Van Stone said.
The upgrades would allow the surface level of Priest Lake to be raised by a few inches in dry years to ensure there’s enough water in the lake to maintain flows in Priest River. Lake operations wouldn’t change in normal water years.
The water board voted to draw the money from a surplus in one of its accounts, and will seek legislative approval to transfer the funds.