Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lake Pend Oreille

Recently, a hydrologist from Washington state was featured in a Spokesman-Review story about water. It seems this guy suddenly became aware of the vast amount of water entrapped in Lake Pend Oreille. At it's deepest, between Cape Horn and Lakeview, the lake is officially 1150 feet deep. In the north end of course, it is much shallower. The principle source of water for the lake is the Clark Fork River, which flows down from central Montana at the continental divide. The Clark Fork enters Lake Pend Oreille near the north end. The Pack river also joins nearby. These river deltas keep the depths very shallow all across the north end of this fifty plus mile long lake.

The aforementioned Washington hydrologist wants to pipe water from Lake Pend Oreille into the Rathrum aquifer, so as to help low summer flows. Alas, you'd think they were Californians, lusting after the Columbia River. What makes this so bazaar is that the beginning of the aquifer is in the south end of Lake Pend Oreille already. Without Lake pend Oreille feeding Hayden Lake and Lake Coeur d'alene, there would be no Spokane river, just a creek, nor an aquifer to fight over.

To illustrate why this is such a lame idea, the picture shown above is the lake at the current winter level, eleven feet below summer pool. You see, other government entities are already stealing our water. Albeni Dam, situated at Priest River and the Pend Oreille River control the level of the lake. This control is shared between the US corps of Engineers, Avista and Bonneville Power.

This reminds me of the joke they used to tell at Silverwood. Train robber: "We're going to rob the train." conductor: "You can't rob this train." "Why not, sez the robber." conductor: Because they were already robbed at the gate!" This, while funny, illustrates that when someone has already robbed the bank, it is generally useless to come in right afterward and rob it again. This would apply to Lake Pend Oreille, as it's waters have already been stolen, thank you very much!


Anonymous said...

Lake Pend Oreille "feeds" Lake Coeur d' Alene?

You're on the sauce again, dude.

Lake Coeur d' Alene is on average, about 73 ft higher in elevation.

Where I come from, water doesn't run up hill. :)

Ric said...

Herb, where was that picture taken ??

Tumblewords: said...

Agreed, agreed. I'm so tired of these knee-jerking rip-offers. Bizarre. As long as a drop remains, they'll fight over it.

Bay Views said...

The picture was taken from the lower deck at the Captain's Wheel looking directly south through Boileaus and on the the Navy Base.

As to the anonymous comment, I would like to quote an old saying that I think applies here. "If you are in ignorance of something, it is good to keep you mouth shut, lest you prove it."

Yes, water can and does run uphill, if underground. Pressure will push water up hill quite a ways. The northeast corner of the aquifer starts at Buttonhook Bay at the south end of Lake Pend Oreille, runs under Hayden, Spirit and Coeur d'Alene Lakes, thence on into the Spokane Valley, more or less following the course of the Spokane river. Any hydrology map of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer will show that. Another way to discover this miracle is to call the Corps of Engineers. I suspect you can google a map of the aquifer, too.

Bay Views said...

My primary point, before the edges of the piece took presidence, was that Lake Pend Oreille already sends water into the aquifer. The poin of which does Lake Coeur d'Alene recieve any water directly may or may not be true, and isn't of any importance. Springs that exist at the bottom of these lakes create a plume of cold water that rises in all of the aquifer lakes. These springs are fed by hydrostatic pressure from the aquifer. The point anonymous was taking was that pend oreille had no effect on the input of water on the aquifer. That is not true, nor was the suggestion that I was drinking while writing. Most of the time when someone somes off like that, I just reject the comment purely on the basis of ladck of respect. I published this time,because I have seen records from the Idaho water resouces dept. showing where an aquifer will dive down and sometimes climb back up according to the underlying terrain. One can make the case that water entering the aquifer from Lake Pend Oreille increases the water pressure, which in some cases would then surface as spring activity. In any event, this piece was not designed to go off on such a tangent. Unfortunately, there are those that prefer to huddle over their computer, attempting to find ways to shoot others down. To those, I suggest they start their own blog, since they obviously have so much to share.

Bay Views said...

I will leave this short piece from the USGS regarding underground water pressure, then I'm through beating this horse. Water that starts underground is subject to pressure and will go wherever the pressure is less. This is how we get water on the surface without drilling a well in some cases.

"After entering an aquifer, water moves slowly toward lower lying places and eventually is discharged from the aquifer from springs, seeps into streams, or is withdrawn from the ground by wells. Ground water in aquifers between layers of poorly permeable rock, such as clay or shale, may be confined under pressure. If such a confined aquifer is tapped by a well, water will rise above the top of the aquifer and may even flow from the well onto the land surface. Water confined in this way is said to be under artesian pressure, and the aquifer is called an artesian aquifer.
Visualizing artesian pressure

Here's a little experiment to show you how artesian pressure works. Fill a plastic sandwich baggie with water, put a straw in through the opening, tape the opening around the straw closed, DON'T point the straw towards your teacher, and then squeeze the baggie. Artesian water is pushed out through the straw." USGS-

As to the characterization of my comment to anonymous:

Stupid- Lacking in intelligence.
Ignorant- Lacking in specific knowledge. I believ I used the word ignorant.

Bay Views said...

After thining it over, I decided that I needed to clarify my remarks about water running up hill.

Surface water, of course can only float down hill, as it's only law is that of gravity. Subterranean water, however can do many things. Most aquifers, including the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, is an underground river. A very slow moving river, but nevertheless, a river. Rivers have currents, as does this one.

It starts up around spirit lake on the west, and Lake Pend Oreille on the east, flowing slowly south and west across the prairie, underneath Twin Lakes, Hayden Lake and the northwest corner of Lake Coeur d'Alene, as it enters the Spokane River. It generally flows with the course of the river, until west of Spokane, where it surfaces again in the river. While underground, the water in the aquifer can and does sometimes flow uphill due to the current pushing it from behind. Other aspects of this interesting act of nature have already been covered above.