Jul 25 , 2012
Montana Fish and Game Biologist Joe Huston and WWP biologist Tim Vaughn (right) prepare brown trout eggs for
planting in 1966, as part of ongoing efforts to improve local sport fishing.
At Avista we talk a lot about our legacy and commitment to environmental stewardship. Tim Vaughan, Washington Water Power (WWP) retiree who passed away earlier this month at the age of 95, was instrumental in helping to build that legacy at Avista. He also left a legacy of his own - the importance of relationships and a passion for nature and the outdoors.
Vaughan was a pioneer of natural resource protection, and has been recognized as the one of the first biologists in the country hired by a power company to address the impact of dams on habitat and fish and wildlife. After first working as a consultant to WWP during the construction of Cabinet Gorge Dam in the early 1950s, Vaughan used his relationship-building skills to successfully show WWP leadership the need to hire a biologist on a permanent basis. Thus began Vaughan’s 25-year career at Avista – first as a founding member of the Environmental Affairs department, and later as manager of the department.
Through partnerships with agencies such as Idaho Fish and Game, Vaughan worked to creatively and jointly reach resource-preservation goals. Bob Anderson, former director of Avista’s Environmental Affairs department and a long-time friend of Vaughan said, “Tim lived the example of respecting others and building collaborative relationships. That’s just how he was, and it set the stage for how we’ve carried out big efforts like hydro relicensing.”
Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of generating power at Cabinet Gorge, Avista employees in the Environmental Affairs department work toward the same goals Vaughan envisioned long ago. Further, environmental stewardship is deeply embedded in our company culture.
Bruce Howard, director of Environmental Affairs, expects this type of respect for our environment to continue far into the future. “Tim’s legacy is now ours to carry on,” said Howard. And Avista employees will do just that.
Jul 23 , 2012
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project
36 years ago, our nation’s bird and symbol of freedom was placed on the endangered species list. Today, the birds are rebounding again across the country and locally.
Avista’s Terrestrial Resource Specialist, David Armes, is in charge of implementing Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan – something we are required to do as part of our federal license to operate our Spokane River Project’s five hydroelectric facilities.
Our contribution to the protection of the Bald Eagle includes annual surveys and monitoring of Bald Eagle nests located near the Spokane River Project area. This includes Coeur d’Alene Lake and its three tributaries; the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers as well as the Spokane River and Lake Spokane.
While conducting surveys we look to see if the nests are occupied, evaluate the success of the nests and observe the fledging period, a time when newborn Eagles are preparing to leave the nest.
The information we gather is shared with natural resource agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The information helps shape future efforts for protecting Bald Eagles in the area.
Avista is proud to support the conservation effort of our nation’s bird and will continue our legacy of environmental stewardship and reliability.
May 11 , 2012
Spokane River and Clark Fork River work targets fish survival, habitat and doing the right thing
If you’ve ever dipped a fishing rod into any of our local lakes or rivers you’re already aware of the great natural resources we enjoy in the Northwest. Because Avista operates hydroelectric facilities on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers, we’ve made a commitment to the environment as part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Two great examples of Avista’s commitment to environmental stewardship are reducing invasive lake trout in Lake Pend Oreille and studying rainbow trout spawning on the Spokane River. These projects were featured in a 2010 “Safekeeping” segment of the Columbia Country television program which aired on Fox stations.
Clark Fork River
The Clark Fork Project segment features an ongoing collaborative project on Lake Pend Oreille to reduce the population of invasive lake trout. Lake Pend Oreille was once a world-class fishery for rainbow trout, bull trout and kokanee. In recent years, the lake has been taken over by lake trout (also called mackinaw), which do not coexist well with native bull trout, and which prey on kokanee, depleting the food sources for rainbow and bull trout. This project offers angler incentives and brings in commercial netters to “fish out” the invasive lake trout. Since this program’s inception more than 139,000 lake trout have been removed from the lake.
Avista helps fund the Lake Pend Oreille project through our Clark Fork Project license, which includes Noxon Rapids Dam in Montana and Cabinet Gorge Dam in northern Idaho.
The Spokane segment features a rainbow trout spawning study on the Spokane River, part of our 50-year operating license for the five hydroelectric developments that make up Avista’s Spokane River Project. The spawning study is part of a 10-year collaboration with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to better understand the relationship between river flow and the rainbow trout population and their spawning habitat from Monroe Street Dam downstream to Nine Mile Dam.
In each of the last two years, in partnership with WDFW, we’ve captured and tagged more than 800 rainbow trout in the river below the Monroe Street Dam downstream to the Nine Mile Reservoir. This part of the 10-year study is to understand how many trout are in the Spokane River and the habitat they use. We will capture and tag rainbow trout again this October.
A similar project has been in effect for several years in the Upper Spokane River, and we hope this project will help us better understand how managing river flows affects water levels in Lake Coeur d’Alene and habitat for rainbow trout downstream. By doing so, we hope to ultimately encourage growth of the rainbow trout population in the Spokane River.
Both of these projects show how Avista works with others to care for the natural resources affected by our projects. They are great examples of how we make our commitment to environment part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Apr 12 , 2012
Thanks to a partnership between Avista, The City of Sandpoint, Keokee Publishing and Northland Communications, a pair of osprey in Sandpoint have a new home – and even better, the community can watch while the pair finishes their nest and settles in – that is, if they decide to stay.
The new webcam at Sandpoint’s Memorial Field came online last week, and has picked up quite a bit of activity in the past several days, including several drop-ins by single osprey, and a pair who just yesterday visited the nest several times, going so far as bringing at least one stick back to the nest.
The cam was installed as a collaborative project between the City of Sandpoint and Keokee Publishing, in partnership with Avista and Northland Communications.
North Idaho is home to one the country's largest nesting population of ospreys, mostly due to the bounty of fish they are able to retrieve from our local bodies of water. Since fish count for 99 percent of their diet, it should come as no big surprise that they choose their homes near the beautiful lakes and rivers in our region. In fact, they usually pick a nesting location within three miles of a body of water and return to it year after year. These attractive raptors not only have great taste in housing locations, but they have a romantic side as well, as most of them mate for life. Many times the housing locations are on our electrical facilities.
Last year, the City of Sandpoint, as part of a series of upgrades at the city’s Memorial Field, replaced the field’s old, decrepit lights with new ones. Two of the old light poles had osprey nests built right atop the lights themselves. When those were removed, the city, with Avista’s help, built new nesting platforms in the park. The idea of the web cam was born shortly thereafter, with a goal of educating the public about the raptors.
Avista has ongoing programs in raptor protection, which include public education and outreach, retrofitting our poles to support nesting raptors and adopting management practices that protect birds and other wildlife. This project fits perfectly with that commitment.
The new web is streamed onto a special section of Sandpoint Online.
Take a peek now at www.sandpointonline.com/ospreys
Dec 22 , 2011
By Dan Kolbet
The New York Times blog Green, which focuses on energy and the environment, recently featured Avista’s innovative Bull Trout genetic testing work on the Clark Fork River. We’re doing the project as part of our FERC license to operate the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams on the river. The ultimate goal is to protect the genetic integrity of the fish and boost their numbers. It’s a pretty cool project and it’s nice to see this national recognition.
Here are the first couple paragraphs of the article. See the full article here.
Trucking Trout to Their Native Streams
By Deborah Weisberg, NY TImes
In an innovative conservation effort, biologists on the Clark Fork River are using genetic testing to help get bull trout back to their natal streams to spawn.
Fulfilling a requirement for the relicensing of its two hydroelectric power plants on the river in Idaho and Montana, Avista Utilities is having the fin tissue of randomly caught adult bull trout “fingerprinted.” Juvenile fish in the natal streams are also sampled to determine whether they carry the DNA of the adults.
Continue Reading at the New York Times website here.
Aug 29 , 2011
Workers place steel anchor bolts with high strength resin into the bedrock to create a solid foundation for the weirs
during our Spokane River aesthetic flows project in downtown Spokane.
Avista’s work on the aesthetic flows project in the river in downtown Spokane is getting a lot of attention from curious onlookers wondering what the project is all about. The reason behind the project isn’t just about looks as the name suggests. While the overall goal is to create a cascading waterfall effect through the channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island, the work is related to the aesthetic spills requirement of our Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license.
In 2009, Avista was issued a new 50-year license by FERC to operate our five hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River (Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake). 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 in Spokane cut into the bedrock to divert water during dry times.
The spray-painted dots you see on the riverbed (in the image above and to the right) are outlines for where the concrete weirs will be installed. Weirs are structures that divert water. Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for the project using sandbags as temporary weirs to divert the water. The feedback we received helped us determine the placement for the permanent weirs.
Our contractor is currently placing steel anchor bolts with high strength resin into the bedrock to create a solid foundation for the weirs. The weirs will be custom made to match the natural basalt bedrock as much as possible, including consideration for the existing terrain’s texture and color.
In addition to providing aesthetic attributes, the project will accommodate fish passage at various water flow levels that are determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Ecology. During the project, fish biologists and contractors are on site, relocating fish safely downstream due to the river flow being temporarily stopped while the weirs are constructed.
Once the project is complete, water will flow more evenly throughout the two channels of the river and will produce a more pleasing flow of water through Riverfront Park. The project is expected to be complete by the end of October so you will most likely continue to see activity in the river channel throughout the fall.
Aug 11 , 2011
Whether you’re in downtown Spokane spending the afternoon at Riverfront Park or just happen to walk through the area on your lunch hour, you will see a number of projects taking place in and around the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams this summer and fall. The work will enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation and aesthetic resources in our community and meet requirements of Avista’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.
As flows drop to summer levels, the following projects will take place in and around the river. If you are in the area, you may see temporary work structures, cranes, trucks and contractors. All equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the environment. For your own safety, please stay out of the riverbed and keep clear of designated work areas.
Here’s what’s on the construction schedule:
Viewing Platform Construction – Upper Falls
Construction of a new viewing platform near Avista’s Upper Falls Dam in Riverfront Park will take place this summer and fall. Avista is building the platform to access the Upper Falls Dam for maintenance. Once the work is complete, park visitors will have a permanent spot to enjoy the views of the river. This project will also improve pedestrian access and the aesthetics at Riverfront Park.
Aesthetic Flows Project – north channel, Upper Falls
The goal of Avista’s aesthetic spills project is to spread water more evenly throughout the two channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island and produce an aesthetically pleasing flow of water that viewers can enjoy throughout the year. To do this, we’ll modify the river’s channel in order to return it to a more natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to collect water during dry times. This project Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for this project. Immediately before and during construction, Avista will not release flows into the channels to the north and south of Canada Island.
Monroe Street Dam rock removal
Generating clean, efficient power is a top priority at Avista. The high river flows this spring have caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the Monroe Street Dam. The excess debris can damage the intake structure and interfere with power production.
In September, the accumulated rocks and gravel will be removed from the forebay. Depending on the analysis of sampled material, the materials will then be placed back into the river below the dam. Usually this activity is done every two years, however, because of heavy water flows this year, Avista will be performing the work again this fall.
While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, biologists will be doing work throughout the summer and fall in the Upper Falls and Nine Mile Reservoirs. The majority of the work this fall will involve a study to determine the population of fish in this area of the Spokane River.
In 2011, Avista will plant 6,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout in Upper Falls Reservoir and 9,000 fish in Nine Mile Reservoir. This stocking program is intended to provide families in our community the opportunity to fish.
Stay tuned for more information about these exciting projects throughout the summer and fall. Avista has also posted signs near the project areas to educate those who pass by about what we’re doing.
May 17 , 2011
The Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA) has a nice blog post about how community action, Avista and KEA helped save a few homeless osprey in Idaho. Check out the story here.
I first heard about this a few weeks back when the word started getting passed around on twitter. I’m glad Avista could help out. This story shows how like-minded folks can accomplish a lot.
Apr 11 , 2011
Check out our Spring 2011 issue of the Clark Fork Newsletter. In this issue, you’ll find the following stories:
• Go Fishing and Catch Cash!
• Spring Runoff Looking Good
• Meet the People Behind the Clark Fork Project
• Noxon Upgrades to Finish in 2012
• Boaters Play Safe
This newsletter goes out to stakeholders, customers, media and others interested in news about Avista’s Clark Fork Project. Our Clark Fork Project includes Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids hydroelectric dams – the newsletter highlights natural resource, operational and community activities associate with the project.
Mar 22 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet
Avista recently gave a helping hand to a Great Horned owl chick on the Palouse. It’s small efforts like this that tell the real story about who Avista is as a company and how much our employees care about the communities we live in.
The owl is now back in its nest at Pullman’s Lincoln Middle School. The chick, which was too young to fly, was found a week ago at the foot of the nest tree on the school grounds. Employees from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine took the bird back to WSU, for an examination and feeding while plans were made to replace it in its nest.
After waiting for winds to die down, Avista donated a large bucket truck, along with serviceman Tom Haeder, to reach the nest, about 40 feet off the ground. The mother owl flew off when Avista arrived, but was seen circling nearby before returning to the nest.
We’re glad we could be there to help out.