May 09 , 2013
If this spring’s unseasonably warm weather is drawing you to the lake or river this weekend, Avista reminds you to exercise caution as snowmelt is causing high, swift and cold river flows.
While the water may look calm on top, the current is usually very strong. Combined with cold water temperatures, swimmers can find themselves in a dangerous situation quickly. As a public service, Avista reports on area lake and river levels and makes the reports available to the community by calling (509) 495-8043 or (208) 769-1357.
To protect yourself and your companions when recreating on or along a river or lake, always follow these important safety tips:
- Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), even if you are an adult. It’s always a good idea to attach an emergency alert whistle to your PFD.
- Remember that water is extremely cold in spring. Know the symptoms of hypothermia.
- Keep your head above water. Muscles in your limbs can stop working after only 10 minutes. Hypothermia can begin in one hour or less depending on the water temperatures.
- Be alert to strong currents and undertows.
- Always be alert for debris, obstructions and partially submerged objects that may be a result of spring run-off and high water conditions.
- Always obey warning signs near dams.
- Never cross boater restraint cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate. The closer a boat or individual gets to a dam or powerhouse, the more hazardous the situation becomes.
- Never fish, swim or boat above or below a dam – water levels can change rapidly with the operation of spillgates and turbines.
- If in a sailboat or catamaran, always look for overhead cables and power lines.
- Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Never anchor your boat below a dam
- Make a voyage plan including the area you will be recreating, who is in your party and return time. Share the plan with someone who will not be in your party.
When on the water, obey all warning signs, follow all rules and regulations, and use common sense. Remember rivers and streams are at their peak flows during spring and early summer. Here are more safety tips
Nov 15 , 2012
We’re lucky to live in an area that experiences very few power outages related to storms. But, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to the treachery of old man winter. A heavy build-up of ice and snow on power lines can cause wires to snap and utility poles to topple. Falling trees and tree limbs covered in ice can bring down power lines, cause outages, and threaten property, even lives.
While it is never our intent for you to experience a lengthy outage, being prepared and knowing what to do during an extended power outage is essential. Rest assured that our crews work diligently to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Here are six must-know tips on how to prepare for a winter power outage:
1. Keep the following emergency supplies on hand: flashlights with fresh batteries, a battery operated radio, matches, candles, first-aid kit, a manual can opener, water and nonperishable food.
2. Have a cell phone or land-line telephone. Cordless phones will not work without electricity. Program Avista’s customer service number into your phone (1-800-227-9187). You can report and track the status of an outage online at www.avistautilities.com
3. Find out ahead of time how to manually open and close any electric garage doors, security doors or gates.
4. Identify the most insulated room in your home in advance; that's where you and your family can gather if you need to stay warm.
5. Protect sensitive equipment such as computers, DVD players and televisions by installing surge protectors or other power protection devices. This measure can prevent a sudden surge of electricity from damaging your equipment.
6. Make sure your smoke alarms and CO2 detectors have fresh batteries.
During an outage, you’ll want to be prepared as well. Be sure to:
• Turn off electric appliances as well as lights that were in use when the power went off. This will help prevent power surges when the electricity is restored.
• Avoid heating your home or cooking indoors with an outdoor grill or other items not intended for indoor use. They can create deadly fumes if used inside.
• To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
• Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.
• Leave one light switch on so you know when your electricity has been restored.
• Assist family members or neighbors who may be vulnerable if exposed to low temperatures for extended periods.
• Once your power is back online, turn on your front porch light. This can help Avista crews working in a neighborhood know which homes have power.
When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are active electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away, and immediately contact Avista at 1-800-227-9187. If traffic lights are out of service, treat the intersection like a four-way stop.
For more safety tips visit us online.
for a printable list to store in a handy location at your home or on your mobile device.
Jul 14 , 2012
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed
Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables located just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. River flows have dropped sufficiently to allow all of the spill gates at the hydroelectric facility to be closed.
The City of Post Falls boat launch and swim beach at Q’emiln Park was opened to the public today. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, and on average about June 22.
This year, several factors delayed the closure of the spill gates at Post Falls Dam. The spring runoff season extended well into the month of July, due to a larger than average snowpack and rainfall in June that amounted to more than twice the normal amounts.
Avista’s project to replace the lifting hoists and old timber intake gates at its Post Falls Dam with modern lifting hoists and new steel gates delayed the spill gate closure an additional week. During the work, at least two generator units must be taken out of service, which reduces the amount of water that can pass through the power house at any one time. This means the total river flow had to be lower than normal before the spill gates could be completely closed and the Q’emiln Park boat launch could be opened.
Visitors to Falls Park will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including cranes, barges, trucks and contractors throughout the project, which is expected to be completed by November. Some areas of the park may be temporarily fenced off, and detours or alternate viewpoints may be designated for park visitors. The public is requested to obey posted signs, stay out of the area of the river below the dam and keep clear of designated work areas.
Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow. River users are cautioned that weather conditions and dam operations can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.
For current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River, call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line. 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 lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check weather and water flow information on the Avista Utilities website.
Jul 10 , 2012
The Burke-Thompson Falls A and B trans-
mission structures were originally constructed
in 1924. Avista crews are replacing the old
wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The
new design will stage the poles closer to
the center of the right of way, which will
improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a
tree falling on the line diminishes. The new
design requires 50 percent fewer poles as
To access the Burke-Thompson Falls A and
B transmission lines, we’re building three
temporary bridges so our equipment can
safely cross. Shown below, a temporary
bridge a crew is setting over the existing
Avista upgrades nearly 90-year old equipment to improve safety and reliability
At the east end of the Silver Valley stands the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B transmission lines. Our customers in this region depend on these primary “arteries” of power to deliver electricity to their homes and businesses.
Situated in a remote location near the Idaho/Montana border, maintaining the Burke-Thompson Falls lines carries its own set of challenges. And part of the solution is rebuilding 8-miles of lines to better serve our customers.
The rural reality
The Silver Valley is known for its beautiful forests and ample snow in the winter. The rural reality – lots of snow and trees don’t bode well for transmission lines.
“The snow levels can get very high in that area,” said Kellogg Operations Manager Bob Beitz. “When outages occur in the winter, we can't access them without a Sno-Cat. When our crews jump out of the cat, they are up to their armpits in snow. Trying to replace a pole in those conditions is a herculean effort.”
All that snow can weigh heavily on the forested areas near the power lines, which can result in falling branches and toppling trees. Even if our rights of way are 100-feet wide, falling trees can cause power outages.
The solution: A rebuild to alleviate outages and concerns
This year, we’re rebuilding 8 miles of electric transmission lines from Burke to the Montana border to improve the safety and reliability of delivering power to our customers. The project carries a price tag of $2.5 million. It’s part of Avista’s ongoing investments to maintain and upgrade our electric system.
The transmission lines were originally constructed in 1924. Though updated several times over the decades, many of the original structures still exist and will be replaced this year. We’ll be re-using the existing wire for the project.
Avista crews are replacing the old wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The new design will stage the poles closer to the center of the right of way, which will improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a tree falling on the line diminishes. The new design requires 50 percent fewer poles as well.
Investing in the future
Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old. Some of the poles on the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B lines are nearly 90 years old.
As we rebuild this section of our electric transmission system, we’ll also have to build three temporary bridges to accommodate the heavy equipment necessary for the construction project.
It’s a big job, but it’s well worth the effort. This is another example of what it takes to provide safe, reliable service for our customers, now – and in the future.
Jun 20 , 2012
School’s out and the weather is finally beginning to warm, which will have many of you making summer river and lake recreation plans. Before you head out for fun on the water, we would like to provide you with information about current river flows and lake levels, as well as our plans for summer operations at Post Falls Dam.
The amount of snow in the mountains continues to be well above normal, because the cool weather has slowed the snow melt. At the beginning of June, Avista began closing spill gates at Post Falls Dam. However, above normal June rainfall has again pushed Lake Coeur d’Alene above its summer elevation. Avista has had to re-open all spill gates and current flows in the Spokane River are more than twice the volume we would normally expect this time of year.
With snowpack still over 200 percent of normal for the Spokane River basin, and a forecast of cooler and wetter than average weather, the runoff is expected to continue well into the summer.
Avista will likely be spilling excess water over the spillways at Post Fall Dam until after the Fourth of July holiday this year. Because of the open spill gates, the river upstream of Post Falls Dam will continue to be lower than normal until after the runoff season, and the City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park will not open until after July 4th. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22.
Avista operates our hydroelectric facilities with a focus on several different objectives:
Meeting customer demand with reliable energy service
Operating safely and efficiently
Complying with local, federal and state regulations and laws
Being good environmental stewards
Providing recreation opportunities
Safety on the river
As always, we ask you to exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia, even in warmer weather. Here is some other important safety information for your consideration:
Always wear a lifejacket on the water.
Obey all safety and warning signs.
Never fish, play or anchor your boat below a dam.
Sudden discharges can increase water flows in a hurry.
Don’t cross the boater safety cable above a dam. The current could pull you through a spill gate or drag you under water near a powerhouse.
Watch overhead clearances like cables and power lines when sailing.
The best way to get the latest information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River is to call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line.
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 lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.
You can also check current river and lake levels on our website. Property owners and lake users are reminded to make necessary preparations, including removing boats from the water, and removing or securing docks and boathouses to accommodate changing water conditions.
For more information on lake and river levels, please call Pat Maher at (509) 495-4283.
Jun 08 , 2012
The gray skies and damp days have certainly been a bummer over the last few weeks. Isn’t summer supposed to happen around June? But, as a signal to some light at the end of the tunnel, a huge rainbow spread across the Northwest yesterday. Avista’s Michael Williams happened to be at Riverfront Park last evening and snapped the image above.
The rainbow looks to be sticking out of our Upper Falls power house, which generates hydroelectricity for downtown Spokane. Clean, renewable and cheap hydropower is certainly a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for our region.
Jun 04 , 2012
Severe weather can strike at any time, which may have you wondering what you can do to prepare your home or business for a power outage. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe during a severe weather event:
Know how to report an outage.
If your power is out, call us right away at 800-227-9187 or report it online at www.avistautilities.com.
We have a mobile version of our site, which makes reporting easy for mobile device users. You can also track power outages online or on a mobile device.
Stay away from downed power lines. If you see a downed line, consider it to be energized and stay away from it. Call us right away to report any downed lines.
Remember your appliances. Turn off all the appliances you think were on before your power went out.
Unplug. Unplug your electronic equipment, including computers.
Keep it closed. Keep your refrigerator or freezer door closed as much as possible to keep the cool air inside.
Don’t grill indoors. Never use a grill indoors to prepare food.
Give yourself a visual cue. Leave a light or radio on to let you know when you have service again.
More safety tips can be found online at www.avistautilities.com. Rest assured that during an outage event, Avista will be working day and night to restore your power.
Mar 27 , 2012
An inside look at how Avista gathers information about snowpack
Avista owns and operates eight hydroelectric
dams on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers.
These facilities, together with long term hydro
contracts, make up about half of the total
electric resources available to serve our
Skiers may prefer light and fluffy snow, but heavy and wet snow contributes more to our water supply in the Northwest. Avista counts on water to generate hydropower for our customers. Every year, Avista evaluates snowpack information in the mountains to get an idea of what spring runoff may be like at our dams on the Spokane and Clark Fork rivers. Only a select few get to see this evaluation process up close, so we took a video camera up the mountain to get you a special look at snowpack measurement.
Avista rents snowmobiles so employees can get as close to the snowpack measurement site as possible. Snow depth is measured by pushing an aluminum tube down through the snowpack and all the way down to ground surface. Both the depth and weight of the snow is recorded. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent the snowpack measurement site.
Avista measures 10 sites at Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest, which is located near the Hiawatha Trail. Once the data is collected, the Hydro Engineering team submits the data to the National Resources Conservation Service who is largely responsible for providing Avista and many other interested parties with reliable water supply forecasts.
The more gradual the snowmelt, the more Avista can maximize that water running through its dams. However, you never know what Mother-Nature is going to do. Regardless, our customers can count on Avista to make the most out of this precious resource in an efficient, reliable and environmentally-responsible way.
If you have questions about lake and river levels, please visit our website
Feb 21 , 2012
High winds are coming, track and report outages online and on mobile devices
High winds are in our forecast tonight and Wednesday and that could mean power outages. If your power does go out, did you know that you can easily report and track outages from a mobile device or online at www.avistautilities.com?
Reporting an Outage
To report on outage from your mobile device, just enter www.Avistautilities.com
in the browser. The Avista website detects when a customer is using a mobile browser and automatically redirects to our mobile website. Then click on Report Electric Outage. From a computer go to avistautilities.com, and click on the Power Outage link on the home page.
Tracking outages is just as easy, plus you’ll see real-time information on all reported Avista power outages. From a mobile device, enter www.avistautilities.com
in the browser and then click View Outage Status. From a computer, click on the Power Outage link on the www.avistautilities.com
homepage, then click List View.
Selecting List View will take to you to all reported electric outages in a geographic area. Click on an area and you’ll find out about each reported incident – number of customers affected, reason for the outage, date and time it was reported, and estimated restoration time.
Want to know the location of an outage? Click on Map View anywhere within the Power Outage site and you’ll see a map with red triangles indicating each reported outage. Hovering over a triangle or clicking on it will give you the details of the outage. Zooming in on a triangle will take you to street level where the boundaries of the outage are indicated in a shaded area.
Information on an outage is updated as it becomes available, so check our website to stay abreast on the latest information.
Feb 06 , 2012
By Brandi Smith
Avista recently sent out the latest issue of the Spokane River Newsletter, a quarterly publication that keeps subscribers informed about our activities in and around the Spokane River. Below is an article from the newsletter that describes how we operate the Post Falls Dam during the winter season. Check out the latest issue
and learn more about what Avista has been up to.
Winter river flows and Coeur d’Alene Lake levels
People commonly think floods occur in the spring. But did you know many of the highest levels recorded for Coeur d’Alene Lake have occurred in the winter? For example, on Christmas day in 1933 the lake reached an all-time peak of roughly eleven feet over its summer level.
Coeur d’Alene Lake is a natural lake with an outlet that naturally restricts its outflow. The primary sources of water into the lake are the St. Joe, St. Maries and Coeur d’Alene rivers. The water then flows through the outlet to create the Spokane River. Avista’s Post Falls Hydroelectric Dam is on the Spokane River, nine miles downstream of the lake’s outlet. The dam affects Coeur d’Alene Lake elevation for about half of the year. During winter and spring, lake levels are controlled entirely by the natural outlet restriction and inflows.
The winter months are generally the wet season in our region. Fluctuating temperatures, rain that occurs on top of snow, or extended heavy rain can increase flows rapidly, which in turn can result in quickly-rising river and lake elevations.
Avista’s goal each year is to draw Coeur d’Alene Lake down six to seven feet below the summer level by early January. This allows Post Falls Dam to generate electricity while providing capacity in the lake for later precipitation and runoff. Natural inflows usually exceed our turbine capacity early in the year, letting Coeur d’Alene Lake and the Spokane River find their naturally occurring levels with no influence by the dam. This free flow condition typically continues through spring run-off until late May, June or early July.
River and lake levels can change quickly. We want you to stay safe, so always use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures, especially in the vicinity.
Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River.
In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357, in Washington call (509) 495-8043
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