Weirs are being built in the bed of the Spokane River downtown. What's a "weir" anyway?
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Aesthetic Flows Project taking place in the Spokane River’s North and Middle channels in downtown Spokane. I received special permission to step into the riverbed for the sake of capturing history in the making for Avista (I also relish opportunities to wear my hard hat).
The project is attracting a lot of attention from spectators passing by as contractors dressed in bright green T-shirts aim their large hose full of concrete-like material at oddly shaped structures formed out of rebar, which are called weirs. The manmade structures are designed to divert the water during low flow periods in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and they are being made to match the existing river bed as closely as possible-both in color and texture. In fact, once the material has been applied, Land Expressions, our contractor has about two hours to transform the mud-like substance into natural looking weirs before they set up and become too hard to manipulate. They use tools like brushes, paint rollers, and shovels to make this happen. It’s quite impressive, a work of art really.
Typically, this stretch of the river (North and Middle Channels) doesn’t have a lot of water flowing through it during the summer months because river flows drop off after spring runoff. However, about this time next year, the water is expected to be flowing more evenly across both the North and Middle channels of the river near Canada Island with the addition of the weirs.
The work you see Avista doing isn’t just about looks, as the name suggests. It’s part of our new 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our five hydroelectric facilities located on the Spokane River. The purpose of the Aesthetic Flows Project is to return the river’s channels to a more natural state, the way they were before early developers cut into the bedrock to divert water during dry times.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of October. Once this is done, there may not be another opportunity for me to don my hardhat in that stretch of the river for quite some time. In the slide show above, you can check out some of the recent photos of the project as it progresses.
If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to call Speed Fitzhugh, Avista’s Spokane River License Manager at, (509) 495-4998.