Priest Lake Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality is important aspect of almost all business, homeowners and visitors to the Priest Lake region. A 1996 Recreational User Survey that was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands and the University of Idaho indicated that the number of recreation user days to the Priest Lake drainage nearly topped those of Glacier National Park in Montana. This study also found that 50 percent to those recreation user days were associated with water-based recreation such as, shoreline camping, boating, swimming and fishing. All of this above mentioned activities are closely, if not intimately connected with water quality.

The SCA conducts routine water quality monitoring on Priest Lake in conjunction with Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s Citizen Voluntary Monitoring Program (CVMP).  Water samples are collected and submitted to laboratory for analysis of Total Nitrogen (LL), Total Phosphorus (LL), Chlorophyll-a, and in some areas, Phytoplankton. Profile measurements of water temp and dissolved oxygen are also conducted at as many as 15 sites around Priest Lake from June-September.  We rely heavily on donations or grants from local property owners, the Equinox Foundation, the Agouron Institute, and recreationalists who love Priest Lake to provide financial support for this program.

In March of 2018 we convened a panel of experts on lakes like Priest and solicited their input on our sampling program moving forward.  Based on their input, during the 2018 sampling season (June-September) we’ll sample at the following sites as weather and water conditions allow:

  • UPLK  (Upper Lake)
  • MOSQ (Mosquito Bay)
  • BREK (Beaver Creek near the Breakwater)
  • PLNO (Mid-Lake just North of Huckleberry Bay)
  • HUCK (Huckleberry Bay)
  • DIST (Distillery Bay)
  • GNAR (Granite Reeder Narrows, off Granite Creek Marina)
  • KALI (Kalispell Bay, just north of the PL Marina)
  • LWQA-S (Lower Mid-Lake, Off 4-Mile)
  • COOL (Coolin Bay, off the Warren Beach Wetland)
  • LWPR (Priest River, ~.3Miles North of the Dam)

SCA Water Quality Monitoring work
at Priest Lake also includes:

  • In the early 1990s, the SCA supported researchers who were completing the baseline studies used to prepare the 1995 Priest Lake Management Plan.  This included the sponsored the “Priest Lake Monitors” who actively provided water quality testing around the lake.  Since 2008 the SCA has worked with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, leading Priest Lake’s Citizen Voluntary Monitoring Program (CVMP).
  • The SCA strongly advocated for local sewer system development around Priest Lake, which was successfully implemented in five districts. In 2017, the SCA helped coordinate a special study in Kalispell Bay which has identified a possible point source of nutrients entering the bay, contributing to rapid aquatic plant growth in some areas. We are currently working with researchers at WSU to continue this study and identify any other areas around the lake with similar characteristics.
  • Grants from the Charlotte Martin Foundation and Agouron Institute have enabled the SCA to reactivate our geographical information system (GIS).  These funds have enabled us to better identify impaired waters flowing into the Priest Lake basin, and start to develop strategies for future studies at the lake and along the Priest River.
  • The SCA currently provides staff or board resources to participate in the following regional water oversight groups:  Bonner County Lakes Commission, Idaho Water Resources Board, Priest Lake Management Study Updates, Thorofare Breakwater Study Group, and the Priest Lake Fisheries Action Committee.

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