Priest River Conservation

April 5, 2022

Priest River Conservation Mitigation Alternatives Position Statement

The Selkirk Conservation Alliance (SCA) is committed to understanding, supporting, and protecting the southern Selkirk environment through cooperation, scientific inquiry, education, and economic diversity. We advocate for all beings, human and non-human, who live in, love, and benefit from Priest Lake and its surroundings. One major component of these surroundings is the Lower Priest River – and it is in trouble. 

Lower Priest River flows, both in quantity and quality, are insufficient to sustain an historical cold-water fishery, or healthy habitat for other threatened and endangered species.   Recreation on the Lower Priest River in late summer is limited due to low river flows.   The degradation of the Lower Priest River must be addressed. 

SCA has monitored water quality in the lake for years including the temperature of Priest Lake tributaries.  We are the leading advocate in the area for wetlands preservation.  We advocate for responsible forest management to preserve forest canopy near streams.  All these are attempts to maintain or improve water quality including temperature in the lake and in the river.

SCA is mindful of the tremendous recreational and economic benefit derived from Priest Lake itself.  We do not deny that there are conflicts and tradeoffs between the river flow management and potential lake impacts.  We are hopeful that wise management can reduce the magnitude of tradeoffs inherent in this issue.

SCA is open to discussion and exploration of all management actions that will improve the Lower Priest River environment while maintaining the enormous benefit derived from recreation on and adjacent to the lake itself. The SCA does not feel we can advocate for a cold water bypass until it can be reasonably assured that effects on Priest Lake, in both construction and operation, are held to a minimum and concerns listed herein are addressed. 

Better hydrological and temperature data on stream and Thorofare flows under various climate scenarios would greatly advance the discussion of this issue.   The ecologic impact to Outlet Bay and silt runoff to Priest River from a large dredging operation needs evaluation.   Potential changes to Outlet Bay currents and flow patterns during the operation of a Bypass needs modeling.  Importantly, a coordinated management plan incorporating Outlet Dam, Coldwater Bypass, and Lower Priest River flow rates linked to seasonal lake pool levels needs to be scientifically developed. 

Through scientific inquiry and public education, SCA seeks answers to the environmental challenges facing the Lower Priest River.  Historically, the long-term ecologic impact of the Outlet Dam was not understood.  As remediation efforts for those consequences are being considered, the SCA requests more thorough outcome data. 

SCA Staff and Board of Directors

It is not SCA’s desire to “tell you how to think” on this issue. This a complex issue with many facets to consider. It is our desire to provide you with the information necessary for you to conduct your own research and come to your own educated opinion on the Lower Priest River conservation mitigation alternatives.

Please see here for SCAs Priest River Watershed documents archive with links to pertinent information on the issue, the mitigation alternatives and studies, history of management, photos archive, current management plans, climate, water and fisheries data and more.

SCA Priest Lake and Lower Priest River informational archive

(PHASE 1 Study)Portland State University – Priest River Model – Model Development, Calibration and Scenarios Report (2014)
(PHASE 2 Study) Avista funded McMillon Jacobs and Associates – Priest River Cold-Water Augmentation Alternatives Analysis DRAFT Alternatives Assessment Report (2019)
(Phase 3 Study) IDFG – Advanced Eco-Solutions Inc. Limnological Threat Assessment – Priest Lake Water Release System (2021)    
2019 Project Plan IDFG  – Priest River Cold Water Bypass Alternatives Assessment    
Avista – Priest Lake Cold-Water Bypass Summary – June 2018
Bonner County Daily Bee – April 8, 2018 – Cold-Water Bypass Gains Steam
Bonner County Daily Bee – June 26, 2019
Bonner County Daily Bee – March 22, 2018 – Trout Fishery Would Be An Economic Boon
Bonner County Daily Bee – October 5, 2021 – New Study Supports Cold-Water Bypass    
Bonner County Daily Bee – September 18, 2021 – Cold-Water Bypass on IDFG Radar
Clark Fork Settlement Agreement Management Committee Meeting Record, Sept 25, 2018 Minutes
Clark Fork Settlement Agreement Management Committee Meeting Record, Mar 13, 2018 Minutes
Climate of Priest River Experimental Forest – USFS  
Columbia Headwaters Recovery Unit Implementation Plan for Bull Trout (USFWS 2015) o LPO-B Conservation Recommendation 1.3.3. Maintain and supplement sources of cold water  
Comparative Thermal Requirements of Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Rainbow Trout: Implications for Species Interactions and Development of Thermal Protection Standards, Bear B.A. & T. McMahon (2005)  
Economic analysis of water temperature reduction practices in a large river floodplain: an exploratory study of the Willamette River, Oregon  
Effect of Temperature on Growth and Survival of Bull Trout, with Application of an Improved Method for Determining Thermal Tolerance in Fishes  
EPA Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan – 2021
EPA Region 10 Guidance For Pacific Northwest State and Tribal Temperature Water Quality Standards  
Federal Aid in Fish Restorations; Job performance report, mountain Lakes Investigations (2003)  
Idaho Department of Fish & Game – ARCHIVE  
Idaho Department of Fish & Game – Fisheries Management Report Library
Idaho Department of Fish & Game Federal Aid in Fish Restoration- Regional Fisheries Management Investigation Panhandle Region (1999)
Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Fishery Management Annual Report Panhandle Region 2009, High Mountain Lakes Investigation  
Idaho Rivers United – Can We Bring Cold Water Life Back into the Priest River? October 21, 2021
Idaho State Comprehensive Water Plan – Archived Plans (1972, 1974, 1976, 1982, 1986, 1992, 1996)  
Idaho State Comprehensive Water Plan – Idaho Department of Water Resources  
Idaho State Comprehensive Water Plan: Priest River Basin Plan amendments (2003)
Idaho Water Resources Board – Water Board to finish $5 million in upgrades to better maintain Priest Late water levels September 21,2021  
IDEQ Website – Priest River Sub-basin
IDFG – Fisheries Management Plans and Programs
IDFG Federal Aid to Fish & Wildlife Restoration – Job Performance Report – Lake and Reservoir Investigations (1979)
IDFG Fisheries Management Plan – 2013-2018
IDFG Fisheries Management Plan 2007-2012–043.2007-12.20fish_plan.pdf
IDFG Fisheries Management Plan –2019-2024
IDFG Research and Collaboration Site – FISHERIES LIBRARY – All reports
IDWR  – Priest Lake Management  
IDWR Priest Lake Water Management Project      
Kemmerer – Northwestern Lakes of the US: Biological and Chemical Studies with reference to possibilities in production of fish. (1924)  
Log Drive – Priest River      
Lower Priest River Instream Flow Study (1992)
Management Plan for the Conservation of Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Idaho (IDFG 2013), Conservation actions for WCT in Priest River-Lakes GMU  
MAP – Bull Trout Recovery Units
Northwest Water Quality Temperature Guidance for Salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout  
NRCS – National Water & Climate Center!&states=!&counties=!&hucs=&minElevation=&maxElevation=&elementSelectType=any&activeOnly=true&activeForecastPointsOnly=false&hucLabels=false&hucIdLabels=false&hucParameterLabels=true&stationLabels=&overlays=&hucOverlays=2&basinOpacity=75&basinNoDataOpacity=25&basemapOpacity=100&maskOpacity=0&mode=data&openSections=dataElement,parameter,date,basin,options,elements,location,networks&controlsOpen=true&popup=&popupMulti=&popupBasin=&base=esriNgwm&displayType=station&basinType=6&dataElement=WTEQ&depth=-8&parameter=PCTMED&frequency=DAILY&duration=I&customDuration=&dayPart=E&year=2021&month=12&day=22&monthPart=E&forecastPubMonth=6&forecastPubDay=1&forecastExceedance=50&seqColor=1&divColor=7&scaleType=D&scaleMin=&scaleMax=&referencePeriodType=POR&referenceBegin=1991&referenceEnd=2020&minimumYears=20&hucAssociations=true&lat=40.00&lon=-99.00&zoom=4.0  
NRCS – PRIEST – Hydrologic Unit Profile – 17010215- (2006) – Full Profile
Outlet Dam – Permit Documents  
Panhandle Community Radio KRFY – May 15, 2018 –PODCAST – Priest Lake and Sullivan Lake Cold Water Bypass Discussion Kalispel Tribe, Trout Unlimited and IDFG
Priest Lake Commission, June 15, 2018 Minutes
PRIEST LAKE, BONNER COUNTY, IDAHO – DIAGNOSTIC ANALYSIS, 1993-1995 – Baseline water quality studies  
Priest River – Cold Water Augmentation Concept – Alternatives Assessment (PowerPoint)      
Priest River Cold-Water Bypass Alternatives Assessment – Statement of work
Priest River Museum – Story Corps – Archived testimonies of Priest Lake Watershed residents  
Priest River Sub-basin Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load (2001)
Priest River Sub-basin Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load Addendum (2003)
Priest River Sub-basin Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load Addendum (2016)
Priest River Wild and Scenic Rivers Draft Environmental Statement and Study (1980)                             
Regional Database and Modeled Stream Temperatures: Rocky Mountain Research Station Air, Water and Aquatic Environments Program  
Sandpoint Reader – June 20, 2019 – IDFG Priest River Cold Water Bypass open House
Spokesman Review – November 16, 2021 – Fisherman and Biologists Smiling at Results of Dam Removal as Westslope Cutthroat Trout Rebound      
Spreading the Risk: Native Trout Management in a Warmer and Less-Certain Future: North American Journal of Fisheries  
Sullivan Dam Cold Water Release System – Summary (2018)
Sullivan Lake – Sullivan Creek – Pend Oreille Public Utility District Summary
Sullivan Lake 11-16-21 – Spokesman Review    
The Potential Influence of Changing Climate on the Persistence of Salmonids of the Inland West, Haak, Williams, Isaak (2010)  
Unique Allacustrine Migration Patterns of a Bull Trout Population in the Pend Oreille River Drainage, Idaho, DuPont, Brown & Geist  
USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service). 2015. Columbia Headwaters Recovery Unit Implementation Plan for Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus).  
USFWS Recovery Plan for the Coterminous United States Population of Bull Trout– Final (2015)
Wild & Scenic River – Priest, Idaho. (USFS) Report recommending congressional designation transmitted to Congress on October 2, 1979. (67 mile)