The Priest Lake Outlet Dam, which was constructed in 1978, is owned by IDWR and operated by a contractor on behalf of IDWR.
IDWR will begin drawing down Priest Lake on October 10th this year. Flows through the Outlet Dam will increase daily to achieve the winter lake level by November 1. This will facilitate kokanee spawning and accommodate boat and dock winterizing needs along the shoreline. Construction and hydrologic conditions vary annually, which guide the operation decisions. This winter, construction work on the dam will not take place other than on-site surveying. Construction is anticipated to resume next October of 2023.
If you have any questions regarding Outlet Dam operations, feel free to contact Michelle Richman, IDWR Northern Regional Manager at (208) 762-2800.
Snow depths are below 9 inches at the SNOTEL sites. The speed at which the snow melts will determine if there is another peak in lake level or not. The weather forecast is for warmer weather today, Friday, June 17, so anticipate additional runoff from snow melt. The forecast for this weekend includes cooler temperatures and some rain, which may lead to additional flows. Warmer temperatures are in the forecast for the coming week.
Keep in mind that historic lake levels have exceeded the current lake level, and peak lake level and river flows each spring are determined by mother nature and the speed of runoff. This year, peak runoff is occurring later than average. The gates at Outlet Dam are open and allowing outflow to pass freely through the dam.
Please be prepared for possible increases in the lake level and river flows in the coming weeks and follow the safety guidelines below.
On May 23, 2022, IDWR began gate operations to bring the Priest Lake level up for Memorial Day weekend. Because of the prolonged cold weather, very little snow has melted in the Priest Lake watershed, and peak runoff has not yet occurred. After Memorial Day weekend, the lake may need to be lowered for incoming snowmelt. It is forecasted that peak runoff will happen a week or more following the holiday weekend. At that time, lake levels will rise above the summer pool level, which is normal for Priest Lake at this time of year.
Until Priest Lake has reached summer pool, boat users should check the water depth when launching, to avoid boat damage. According to the Lakes Commission, Kalispell Bay public boat launch is known to have a deep launch if you plan to launch soon.
Priest River is currently flowing with less than 3000 cfs, but this will be reduced as the gates are lowered this week. Expect those flows to increase again once temperatures warm up!
For questions contact Michelle Richman, IDWR Northern Regional Manager, email@example.com