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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lake Pend Oreille boaters urged to watch out for debris after log boom failed

Boaters on Lake Pend Oreille are being told to watch out for logs and other floating debris after a log boom failed at the Clark Fork River Delta’s drift yard.

Logs were visible Wednesday afternoon over a 3- to 4-mile stretch of the lake between the delta and Hope, Idaho. Heavy boat traffic is expected in the area over the Fourth of July weekend.

“There are lots of dispersed logs and they are going to be a hazard to boaters, tubers and skiers,” said Lt. Ed Jochum of the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Division, who flew over the lake to assess the situation. “We’re doing our best to mark them through flagging and solar lights, but it’s going to be impossible to mark every log.”

The boom that catches logs floating down the Clark Fork River and into Lake Pend Oreille was broken for six hours Tuesday, allowing logs to drift into the lake. The breach was discovered around 3 p.m. and a temporary fix was put into place around 9 p.m., said Bill Dowell, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the drift yard.

“We know this will be a busy weekend on the lake and safety is our top priority,” he said.

Michael Gearlds, who lives near Hope, and his wife, June Fogerty, encountered logs and woody debris Tuesday when they were out on their 20-foot Bayliner. The logs were especially thick between Hope and Warren Island, he said.

“We’re not talking about a few trunks. We’re talking about hundreds of pieces of wood,” he said. “My wife said it was like navigating a slalom course. I’ve never seen this much debris in the water.”

The current is expected to push the logs and debris north toward Anderson Point and Trestle Creek, but wind could alter that course.

“There are a lot of people pulling skiers or letting it rip on the water,” Gearlds said. “They’re going to have a bad day if they hit a log.”

Army Corps employees are working on a permanent fix for the log boom, but the agency doesn’t have the ability to retrieve the logs that already have drifted into the lake, Dowell said.

The drift yard was built to reduce boating hazards after Albeni Falls Dam began operations in the 1950s. The dam keeps the lake’s water levels high in the summer, which prevents the natural lowering of the lake that would wash logs up onto the shore, Dowell said.

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