Changes underway at Nine Mile Dam are creating better access for paddlers and a temporary reason for caution to boaters and anglers.
The water level of Nine Mile Reservoir will be lowered about 6 feet starting in May to accommodate work on a barge landing at the dam.
The date has not been set, but the water will remain at the lower level for about a week, Avista spokeswoman Mary Tyrie said.
Avista Utilities is continuing a project that started in 2012 to replace original 1906 turbine generating Units 1 and 2, and associated equipment.
Starting last year, the project has required the reservoir to be drawn down below normal levels periodically.
No drawdowns as drastic as the 12-foot drawdown last October are planned, Tyrie said.
Avista took advantage of the drawdowns last winter to construct Nine Mile Boat-Take-Out, a paddlers’ access just upstream of the dam on the south side of the reservoir.
The access, which is open for use, is particularly useful to paddlers launching at Riverside State Park’s Plese Flat access and paddling the mostly flatwater stretch downstream nearly 5 miles to Nine Mile.
Work-related drawdowns affect the Nine Mile Reservoir in the 5 miles upstream to the power lines above Plese Flats.
The drawdowns also temporarily affect the flows out of Nine Mile Dam and into Lake Spokane, the reservoir behind Long Lake Dam.
After the 6-foot drawdown that will occur in May, Avista expects to maintain normal reservoir levels throughout the summer, Tyrie said.
“There’s a potential for a 1-foot drawdown for the safety of workers on the reservoir in the fall, but that hasn’t been set,” she said.
“Last year was tough on property owners because the drawdowns were big and there were a few unexpected changes during construction.”
Major work outside the dam will continue about two more years followed by a couple of years of work mostly inside the dam, Tyrie said.
Dam spill gates also are being modified in an attempt to limit the 12-foot drawdowns of the past needed for required spill-gate maintenance, she said.
“Periodic maintenance will still be necessary, coupled with the 12-foot drawdowns, but the modifications should help limit their occurrence,” Tyrie said.
Avista currently has the Post Falls Dam open upstream to control the runoff into Lake Coeur d’Alene. That means boaters on the Spokane River above and below the dam must be especially aware of hazards in the water, said Deputy Jeff Burns, Kootenai County Sheriff’s recreation safety officer.Get Nine Mile updates
Landowners, anglers and boaters can sign up for email notifications from Avista related to dam operations, reservoir levels and other Spokane River information. Email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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