Research

SCA Scientific Research Program

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Current Projects:

Priest Lake Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program
Priest Lake Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program
SCA Aquatic Vegetation Studies in Priest Lake Bays

Past Projects:

Priest Lake Water Quality Monitoring Projects
Selkirk Remote Camera Projects
Selkirk Winter Habitat Monitoring Projects
Watershed & Water Quality Reports

The Priest lake watershed is under enormous human pressure and threats from a spectrum of sources. Priest Lake is a major regional recreation destination which saw a 400% increase in tourism over the last five years (IDL). The lake is also surrounded by state and federal forest lands that have seen a major increase in harvest rates over the last decade. Shoreline development has drastically increased including the development of critical wetlands around the lake. Invasive aquatic species are increasing in lake bays as are increasing amounts of shoreline erosion. Human use of the lake, forestry practices, development and invasive aquatic species all threaten and degrade the water quality of area lakes, streams and drinking water sources.

SCA is the only entity conducting long term water quality monitoring of Priest Lake and regional streams. Since 2008, the SCA has been the lead in the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s Citizen Science Voluntary Monitoring Program (CVMP). In 2017 SCA also implemented and aquatic plate study to analyze aquatic vegetation populations in targeted Priest Lake Bays and began our citizen science stream sampling project for important source water streams.

The SCA Scientific Research Program is dedicated to collecting scientifically credible monitoring data in the Priest Lake Watershed. The monitoring data from our Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Programs helps to inform the public and area regulatory agencies about water quality issues of concern such as temperature and nutrients as well as identifying sites to be concerned about within SCA’s advocacy area.

SCA has also collected data and done extensive GIS mapping of regional wildlife ranges and threatened and critical habitats within our advocacy area (see below).

SCA is the only entity collecting long term Priest Lake and Priest Lake tributary streams water quality monitoring data!

It is extremely important for the current and future conservation and protection of the water quality of our beloved lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water that local, state and federal regulatory agencies base management decisions on modern science and up to date data collected in the Priest Lake Watershed. SCA is working hard to spearhead this effort with our citizen science water quality monitoring programs!

SCA has three Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Programs; Priest Lake, Streams and Aquatic Vegetation Growth Study

Priest Lake Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Priest Lake CVMP has been monitoring 20 sites on Priest Lake since 2008 and has compiled water quality monitoring data from the 1990’s. SCA is collecting data in many Priest Lake Bays including; Huckleberry, Cavanaugh, Mosquito, Outlet, Kalispel, Beaver-Breakwater, Coolin, Granite, Reeder, Distillery, Squaw and Indian. We also have a monitoring site in upper Priest Lake and two deep water sites on the lake.

The lake monitoring program is collecting data on

  • Nutrients: Nitrogen & Phosphorous
  • Chlorophyll a
  • Dissolved Oxygen
  • Temperature

Priest Lake Watershed STREAMS Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program

Learn more about our Adopt-A-Stream program here

Sadly, the vast majority of Priest Lake watershed tributary streams have been listed by IDEQ as being impaired for not meeting the water TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for temperatures.  Temperatures exceed the maximum thresholds for Salmonids and native cold-water fish species including Bull Trout. In spite of the deficiency listing, water temperature and stream quality have not been consistently monitored by state or federal agencies. The SCA perceives a strong need to prioritize resources for monitoring Priest Lake Tributary Streams for potential deterioration.

See below image, red lines indicate 303 D listed streams and stream segments that no longer support native cold-water species in the Priest Lake Watershed.

SCA is collecting water quality monitoring data in 10 of the major drainages which flow in to Priest Lake. These tributaries include; Trapper, Two Mouth, Lion, Indian, Hunt, Soldier, Caribou, Upper Priest, Kalispel and Granite Creeks.

The Priest Lake tributary streams monitoring program is collecting data on

  • Nutrients: Nitrogen & Phosphorous
  • Stream pH
  • Stream Temperature
  • Air Temperature
  • Stream habitat, biologic, physical assessment

SCA Aquatic Vegetation Studies in Priest Lake Bays

Excess nutrients entering our beloved bays and spurring the growth of aquatic vegetation including algae and invasive species such as Eurasian Watermilfoil is a big concern for SCA and our community. SCA has also implemented and aquatic plate study to analyze aquatic vegetation population growth in targeted Priest Lake Bays.

 Past SCA Scientific Research Work

Water Quality Monitoring – Priest Lake

Selkirk Conservation Alliance has been monitoring water quality on Priest Lake since 2008. This program is conducted in conjunction with the State of Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality under the citizens volunteer monitoring program. The goal of the monitoring program is to accumulate baseline data that may lead to early detection to any detrimental impacts to water quality. As with any program, the early detection of any problems leads to a greater prospect of success of any necessary corrective actions.

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.

Our Efforts

  • Participate in the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s Watershed Advisory Group (WAG) for the Priest Lake and Priest River area.
  • Conduct routine water quality monitoring on Priest Lake in conjunction with Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Water Samples are collected to submitted to laboratory for analysis Chlorophyll-a and Phosphorous. Measurements of water temp and dissolved oxygen are also conducted.

Selkirk Remote Camera Projects

The SCA was able to purchase 7 remote motion sensing cameras to use on various projects around the Selkirks through a Defenders of Wildlife grant. Cameras have or are being used to capture encroachments of critical habitats in non-motorized areas, to document the variety and abundance of wildlife in these areas, and to document recreational use and motorized traffic in the thorofare between the Upper and Lower Priest Lakes. A sample of some photographs captured by these cameras are shown here. Volunteers are nearly always needed to help sort through the photos after they are retrieved, to catalog them by type.

To volunteer, please select this link

Selkirk Winter Habitat Monitoring

From 2008 through 2015 the SCA supported several aerial monitoring flights over critical habitat areas which are closed to motorized vehicles. Each flight documented motorized tracks and activity within the critical habitat closure areas. Reports were provided to the federal agencies responsible for enforcement in the non-motorized closure areas. Copies of these reports and other SCA documents can be found in our on-line Library.

Aerial Monitoring Reports:

2015Feb 23
2014Feb 26Mar 24
2013Feb 15Mar 11Mar 25Apr 24
2012Feb 3Feb 27Apr 22May 8May 142012 Summary
2011Jan 30Feb 19th
2010Jan 22Feb 22Mar 5Mar 15Mar 24Apr 16

Watershed & Water Quality Reports

Historical Watershed Reports:


Effects of shoreline development in large Lakes
Thermal regimes of Rocky Mountain Lakes

Priest Lake and Priest River

1995 Priest River Plan
1995 Priest Lake Management Plan
Priest Lake Data Base
IDEQ Priest Lake 2016 Summary
USFS 1999 Outlet Bay Environmental Assessment Sewer Upgrade
Rothrock and Mosier 1997
Rothrock and Mosier 1997 pt2
Priest Lake Water Management Study 2016
Priest Lake Water Management Stakeholders Meeting 2017
Priest Lake Bathemetry Data
Kalispell Bay Ground Water (U of I thesis)

Lake Pend Oreille and Pend Oreille River

Lake Pend Oreille Littoral Study
Lake Pend Oreille Partners For Milfoil Control
Lake Pend Oreille Nutrient TMDL Study

  • 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.