May 10 , 2011
High water flows prompt action
Avista will be drawing down the elevation of Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake) over the next several days, in order to perform maintenance work required as a result of the current and projected high flows on the Spokane River.
As of May 9, the level of Lake Spokane was about 1,535 feet, which is about 1 foot below its normal summer elevation. We expect to decrease the level of the reservoir to bring it to an elevation approximately 3 feet below normal summer level by Thursday, and will return the reservoir to approximately 1 foot below its summer elevation beginning next week.
Due to high seasonal snowpack and warmer temperatures, the National Weather Service is predicting rapidly increasing river flows and high water on the Spokane River over the next several weeks. Avista operators at our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, which include Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, and our downstream dams, Nine Mile and Long Lake, work together to coordinate spilling so that we operate efficiently and manage reservoir levels. However, we want to remind you that weather conditions can cause river and reservoir levels to change rapidly, so please use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures.
Avista wants you to stay safe during your spring and summer activities on area reservoirs and waterways. Please remember, especially during spring run-off, the waters near a dam can contain hidden dangers. Swirling water, submerged objects, strong currents and open spill gates can pose serious hazards to boaters and other recreationists, and sudden discharges of water from spillways and turbines can rapidly increase water levels and river flows. You can always check river and lake levels on our website at http://www.avistautilities.com/inside/resources/Pages/waterflow.aspx
, or by calling 509-495-8043 or 208-769-1357.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your understanding as we perform necessary maintenance and operations of our hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River.
If you have any questions about this drawdown, please send us an e-mail
Mar 30 , 2011
This Avista crew was in the middle of installing a
large steel electrical structure that holds power lines
which cross the Spokane River near SFCC and TJ
Meenach Bridge. The old wooden structure is still
standing in the middle with the poles connected at
the top. Two of the taller steel replacement poles are
on the picture on the left and right. The placement of
this structure is on the side of a 45-degree angle
ravine that slopes down to the river below. Once the
full structure is built the crew will re-string new, more
efficient power lines across the river.
The Avista crew fills in the hole for a new steel pole.
A contractor had to shoot gravel down the ravine on
a belt to fill in the massive depth of the new poles.
We all use power every day, but don’t always know where it comes from or why it’s so reliable
This morning I wrote a reply in an ongoing online conversation I’ve been having with a few folks on a local news website. The discussion was wide-ranging from rates to hydropower. We don’t always agree with one another. That’s OK. It got me thinking about power generation in our area and our customers’ use of it.
One area of the discussion that struck me was the idea that Avista’s hydroelectric dams (built when the company was Washington Water Power) were paid for by taxpayers. I don’t know if this is a common misperception, but it’s incorrect. In fact, all of Avista’s (WWPs) dams were built through private funding. All Spokane River projects: Monroe Street
(1890) Post Falls (1906), Nine Mile (1908), Nine Mile (1915) and Upper Falls
(1922); and Clark Fork projects: Noxon Rapids
(1959) and Cabinet Gorge
(1953) were built privately.
There are so many little dams chugging away day after day, decade after decade that they are easy to ignore. Even after four years of working at Avista when I think of a “big” dam, I find myself thinking of Grand Coulee
or Chief Joseph
dams on the Columbia River. Those are federal dams built with taxes, Avista’s weren’t.
Our power mix is roughly 50 percent hydroelectricity. Forty-two of that 50 percent comes from the dams we built, own and operate. The rest come from long-term contracts with other hydro generators.
Focusing on reliability so you don’t have to
Operating these dams and electric resources is really a complex process that most of us don’t think about every day. The perception may exist since these resources are up and running that power has, and always will be plentiful and reliable. That’s just not the case. We’ve got to work at it together. One of the questions I received last summer when I was working on our Energy on the Street project
was about the future of energy. How is Avista planning for the future?
The web of electric generation around the Northwest provides juice for those who want it and pay for it. When I come home at night and flip on the lights, I don’t think about where that power comes from and I bet you don’t either. Is it hydro, natural gas, biomass, coal or wind? But there’s a system in place that we manage that ensures you get the power you need when you want it. That’s one way to think of reliability.
The system is also reliable because employees maintain it. The effort extends beyond maintaining or upgrading power plants. It’s reliable because of the people who climb the poles in six-feet of snow. The men and women who brave the elements to ensure the power lines that feed your home are back in service as quickly as possible when nature’s fury blows trees into the lines, encases them in ice or burns them to the ground in a firestorm.
Avista’s electrical system is rooted around 125 years of history, but it’s not on autopilot. Our employees work hard to ensure that when you flip the light switch or turn on the TV, you don’t have to think about 125 years of power lines and dams. All you need to know is that we’re taking care of it and that it’s there for you when you need it. That’s reliability.
Nov 17 , 2010
Avista crews upgrading the Nine Mile
Spillway gate system.
Reservoir to be raised and lowered throughout testing process
Avista has completed installation of new spillway gates at its Nine Mile Dam, and will be testing the new system over the next couple of weeks. Nine Mile Reservoir will be raised and lowered several times during the testing period to ensure the new spillway system is operating correctly.
The upgraded system will give Avista operators the ability to raise and lower the height of the spillway gate at any time, incrementally if needed, in order to maintain the reservoir pool at a more constant level throughout the entire year. The new system consists of metal gates supported by air-filled rubber bladders, and replaces our old wooden flashboard process, which had been in use since 1928 after Avista purchased the dam. In the past the reservoir had to be lowered each summer to accommodate installation of the flashboards.
Operators began inspecting and testing the new system this week. Tests will consist of independent cycles of each of the three spillway gate sections between the full and minimum pool elevation (about 10 feet below full pool). Beginning Sunday, Nov. 14, Nine Mile Reservoir was raised to full pool, and over the test period it will be gradually lowered and raised several times to allow for observation of the spillway gates throughout the minimum to full pool elevation range, in order to ensure the spillway gates are fully operable.
The public will see several fluctuations of the reservoir levels during this testing period, and should stay out of the section of the Spokane River above Nine Mile Dam to Plese Flats. Water levels and conditions around a dam are subject to change at any time, and river users are reminded to use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures.
The reservoir level should be back to full pool by the first part of December 2010. Currently, no change in the full pool level is planned after the new spillway has been tested. To the extent possible, Avista will maintain the reservoir level at the normal full pool elevation year around; however, there will be times when the reservoir will need to be drawn down for maintenance purposes.
Nov 11 , 2010
Boaters on the Spokane River who use the Q’emiln Park boat launch ramp in Post Falls have only a few days left to use the launch this season. The ramp, located upstream of Avista’s Post Falls Dam, will be closed for the season beginning Monday, Nov. 15.
The boat launch is normally closed about this time each year because of weather conditions and dropping water levels. When Avista spills water through gates at the dam, the boat launch must remain closed for safety reasons. This can happen frequently throughout the fall through spring. Generally, the ramp re-opens in the late spring or early summer, depending on the amount of inflows into Coeur d’Alene Lake.
As a result of Avista’s annual drawdown of Coeur d’Alene Lake, Spokane River levels above the dam will be approximately three feet below the summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet on Nov.15. Water levels may drop by as much as five additional feet by the end of January.
These water levels are subject to change due to weather conditions, and river users are reminded that weather can cause conditions can change dramatically at any time. Please use caution on the water.
Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River during the subsequent 24-hour and one-week periods. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington call (509) 495-8043.
The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.
Nov 10 , 2010
Post compiled from information provided by Patrick Maher
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
It’s a long way from the Inland Northwest to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, but what’s happening there will probably have an impact on the region this winter.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is projecting that the Pacific Northwest will have a colder and wetter than normal winter thanks to La Niña, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. The cooler water temperatures ultimately impact weather around the world and often lead to extreme weather events. Last winter was an El Niño year – the opposite weather pattern of La Niña - with higher than normal temperatures and little snow.
If the La Niña predictions hold true, it could again mean increased mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest and in western Montana. We know that’s good news for skiers, but what could it mean for Avista?
Above average snow in western Montana could mean increased hydro generation at our Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids facilities depending upon actual snow fall amounts in the mountains and how the spring snow melt unfolds. The more gradual the snow melt, the more Avista can make use of the water in the rivers. The same applies to our six Spokane River hydro projects. About 60 percent of our total hydro generation comes from the Clark Fork basin with 23.5 percent coming from the Spokane River basin.
However, you never know what Mother Nature is going to do. According to the National Weather Service, not every La Niña is the same with a wide range of possible snowfall outcomes. For example, in Spokane the La Niña winters of 1949/1950, 1955/1956, 1974/1975, 2007/2008, and 2008/2009 resulted in over 80 inches of snowfall for the winter season. However, only 30-32 inches of snow was observed in the La Niña winters of 1967/1968, and 1970/1971. So while above average snowfall is more likely for a La Niña winter, it’s not a guarantee. But, it may be a good bet to have your snow blower gassed up and ready to go this winter, just in case.
Regardless of what this winter brings, we’ll have enough electricity and natural gas to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers and provide them with first-class customer service.
Avista obtains weather data from a number of sources such as the National Weather Service, Northwest River Forecast Center, DTN Weather and the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Avista uses long-term charts like the ones above from the Climate Prediction Center as information; however, short-term weather forecasts are one of the tools that are used to help determine the amount of electricity and natural gas that Avista may need to purchase in the daily or spot market to meet customer demand.
Forward looking statement
This article contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the article and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009, and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010.
Sep 15 , 2010
Avista began its annual fall drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene on Sept. 7. We’ll be gradually lowering the lake to about a foot from full pool by the end of September, and then an additional 1.5 feet per month until it reaches its winter level. We want shoreline property owners and boaters to be aware of the annual draft so they can make seasonal preparations, including removing boats from the water and securing docks for low-water conditions.
Avista manages the lake level to prepare for spring runoff, to mitigate flooding in the winter and to optimize power production. As part of our FERC license to operate our Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, which includes Post Falls Dam, Avista is required to maintain the level of Coeur d’Alene Lake at summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet from as early as practical (in May or June) until the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Following Labor Day, the lake is lowered to about 6 to 7 feet below summer level over a several-month period. The slow drawdown increases flows of the Spokane River and slightly decreases river levels between the lake and Post Falls Bridge. Spill gates at Post Falls Dam are not opened during the initial stages of the drawdown, and the river should remain open for recreation until November; however, river users should be aware that water levels can fluctuate at any time depending upon weather and dam operations.
For river levels, visit www.avistautilities.com/environment/ourpart/recreation
. Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River during the subsequent 24-hour and one-week periods. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.
Avista also has a new e-mail news system for customers, recreationists, property owners and others interested in news and activities related to Avista’s Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, including river levels and dam operations.
To be added to the mailing list, send an e-mail to Spokanerivernews@avistacorp.com
. Please do not send general questions or comments to this e-mail address, as it is not monitored constantly. E-mail messages that are sent out will have name(s) and contact information of Avista personnel for customers wanting more information.
Spokane River users should always use caution as water levels may change quickly. This warning applies to all areas of the river, especially around hydroelectric facilities.
By obeying warning signs, using common sense and following area rules and regulations, boaters, swimmers and other recreational users can safely enjoy the Inland Northwest’s scenic waterways.
Follow these safety tips:
• Be alert for debris, obstructions, and partially submerged objects.
• Always obey warning signs near dams.
• Never cross boater restraining cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate.
• Never anchor your boat below a dam – water levels can change rapidly with little warning.
• Watch for overhead cables and power lines, especially if you’re in a sailboat or catamaran.
• Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), no matter what your age or swimming ability.
• Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Aug 27 , 2010
Note the white sandbags, called weirs, lined up in the Spokane River. These temporary dams help divert
water during the aesthetic spill tests. They will be removed from the river once testing is complete.
We received this message to firstname.lastname@example.org yesterday from a concerned customer. I thought this might be a question that other customers may be asking, so I’ve posted the full e-mail and our reply below.
I have seen the crews at work on the Aesthetic Spill Pilot Test in the River Front Park area. It appears the purpose of this pilot test is to assess the feasibility of diverting water that would normally flow through the south channel to the north channel. Do any practical benefits exist for this kind of diversion? Or, as the pilot study name suggests, are the benefits purely aesthetic?
If the no practical benefits exist, I object to the use of my utility rates for a purely aesthetic project which only benefits a small portion of the rate paying customers.
Please shed some light on the driving force for this project.
Dear Jesse, Thanks for your inquiry about the work being done on the Spokane River channels in Riverfront Park.
As you may know, we received a new operating license for our hydro facilities last year. With the new license came some new conditions that we are required to meet. Among those is an aesthetic spill in the north and middle channels of the river.
Currently the requirement is for a minimum 500 cfs to be diverted from the south channel. But there is a provision in the license that allows us to attempt to modify the riverbed so that we can make the flows just as appealing with only 300 cfs.
What we are doing is filling in the artificial cuts in the rock that were done in the early days of Spokane’s development. These were done to divert naturally low river flows to various mill wheels and laundries, etc. Those same cuts prevent the aesthetic affect that people want to see in the river.
Presently we have a group of stakeholders evaluating the modified river flows for the most effective configuration. Once that is established we can begin to make permanent modifications and hopefully divert less generating water from the powerhouse at Upper Falls.
I hope that addresses your concerns. Please let me know if you have further questions.
-Hugh Imhof, Avista Communications Manager
Aug 25 , 2010
The evaluation team takes a look at the river from one of 10 public viewpoints Wednesday morning,
August 25. The group will suggest changes to the temporary dams and come back for a second and
possibly third look at spills through the two channels. Evaluators include representatives of Spokane Parks
and Recreation, Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, Sierra Club, Washington Department of Ecology, Center
for Environmental Law and Policy, Avista, Friends of the Falls, and others.
Normally at this time of the year, the north and middle channels of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane, what many of us know as Spokane Falls, look pretty dry. That’s because in the past during the dry summer months, natural conditions and Avista’s hydropower operations have resulted in little or no flow through that part of the river. That all changed last year with the issuance of Avista’s new 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory license to operate our Spokane River Project, which includes Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams in downtown Spokane. As a result of the relicensing process, we must now release minimum aesthetic spills around the clock at both Upper Falls and Monroe Street. That began this summer, and you may have noticed more water flowing through the falls in July and early August.
But there’s more to it than that. If you’ve been to Riverfront Park in the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed something else in the river. Cranes, sandbags, and workers have been busy preparing for an aesthetic spills pilot test at Upper Falls Dam. This test will help us determine whether permanent channel modifications can be made to bring the riverbed closer to its natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to divert the water during dry times. We’re hoping to enhance aesthetic appeal even more during periods of low river flow. Our license requires us to do this study to learn whether the same, or a better, aesthetic effect can achieved with daytime releases of 300cfs and channel modifications, as the current daytime release of 500 cfs does, without modifications.
Avista’s Upper Falls Dam is located where the river splits into two channels around Havermale Island in Riverfront Park. The southernmost channel forms the forebay that provides water to the powerhouse, and the northern channel passes through the control works dam and splits again into two smaller channels that run north and south of Canada Island. These are referred to as the north and south (or middle) channels. These two channels are where the pilot test is occurring, and we hope that as a result of this work, viewers of the river downtown will have a pleasant experience no matter what time of year it is.
Last week we temporarily interrupted normal aesthetic spills and placed several small, temporary dams made with sandbags, called weirs, throughout the channels. These weirs divert the flow of water throughout the channels, and this week, an evaluation team made up of representatives of stakeholders, agencies and the public is viewing test spills and giving their feedback as we release 300 cfs through the two channels. Team members will make judgments based on their sense of sound, coverage, depth and power of the water as it moves through the channels. The feedback we receive will help us determine whether to move forward with permanent channel modifications next year.
Next week, we’ll remove all of the equipment and materials from the river, and we’ll return to normal aesthetic spills the following week. Then, if the outcome of the pilot test shows us that permanent modifications are the way to go, the real work begins.
So far, we’re excited about the potential of this project. We’re hoping the result is a cascading waterfall effect throughout both channels of the river that visitors and the community can enjoy all summer long. And this collaborative effort could indeed accomplish that, possibly restoring at least some of the river’s natural beauty that was lost through the development of Spokane over the past 100 or more years.
Aug 17 , 2010
Hey, everyone. I wanted to share a quick clip of the video I took on the Spokane River last week.
This video shows the removal and relocation of accumulated rock, gravel and sediment at Monroe Street Dam. The crane grabs the materials and places them over the dam and back into the river. This material is the stuff that naturally flows downriver, but collects behind the dam.
My co-worker Communications Manager Anna Scarlett told me that analytical results of materials sampled back in July indicated that sediments were within Washington’s acceptable standards for contaminants. Relocation of the materials over the spillway back into the river is required by federal and state permits to operate the project, and redistributing the materials back into the river will allow them to continue to serve as a potential gravel source for spawning habitat in the Spokane River system.
More work on the river will continue in the next few weeks as we study whether channel modifications can be made to enhance aesthetic flows in the north and middle channels during periods of low river flow.
Jul 19 , 2010
The Spokane River through downtown Spokane.
One year into our new FERC license on the river, big projects happening
Watch for activity on the downtown Spokane stretch of the Spokane River beginning this week, as Avista starts work on several projects to protect and enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation, cultural and aesthetic resources related to our Spokane River hydroelectric project.
Click to view a map of the activities happening on
the Spokane River.
Over the next few months, visitors to the stretch of the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including a crane near the river above Monroe Street Dam, intermittent aesthetic flows at Upper Falls Dam, sandbags, water bladders and moving equipment in the Upper Falls area. All of the equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the surrounding environment.
Work taking place includes a pilot study in the north channel of the river to learn what modifications can be made in order to return the river to a more natural state, and removal of accumulated rock, gravel and sediment at Monroe Street Dam. The work will begin in July and August as flows drop to their summer levels, and could be extended into early autumn.
While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, it’s just as important. While we’re studying the river channel, biologists and contractors will be working in the stretch of the river between Upper Falls Reservoir and Monroe Street Dam, primarily on a study to assess whether fish can become trapped or stranded in the north channel of the river when water levels are low.
In late June, 3,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout were planted in Upper Falls Reservoir. Another 3,000 fish will be planted in Upper Falls Reservoir this fall. The first year of a three-year fish population assessment will also be conducted in the Upper Falls Reservoir this fall.
Watch for updates as we progress, and see the attached map and handout for specific details, locations and approximate dates/timelines.
A year into the 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license
to operate our five hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River (Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile Falls and Long Lake), the work Avista will do is just getting started. These significant environmental measures will benefit both the communities and the natural resources where our facilities are located. Protecting resources and responsibly operating our dams helps us continue to generate low-cost, renewable hydroelectric energy.