North Idaho

Avista's dam plans may disrupt Spokane River recreation

Avista's dam plans may disrupt Spokane River recreation

POST FALLS, Idaho - The popular Q'emiln Park boat launch could experience some added closures this summer as Avista plans to rebuild the South Channel Dam in Post Falls.

The South Channel Dam at Q'emiln Park it doesn't generate any power; right now it's just used to control the water level on the Spokane River. Avista plans to remodel the dam by the end of 2014, and that has some businesses worried.

In 1906, workers with Washington Power built the South Channel Dam on the Spokane River as part of the Post Falls hydroelectric project.

"It's 108 years old it's served us very well but it needs some work right now," said Avista spokesperson Debbie Simock.

Now, Avista says the old dam is scheduled for a remodel. Crews will replace the manual gates with automatic ones and pour new concrete.

"We're anticipating at this point that there should be a minimal impact to park users but it's important to keep in mind that, that will be an active construction site," said Simock.

Construction is scheduled for mid to late June, which is about the same time the Q'emiln Park boat launch usually opens. That means the launch could be closed for periods of time.

"It generates a huge amount of business and traffic through this store every year for us," Handy Mart owner Karla Barnes said.

Barnes said late openings of the launch have hurt business before.

"Well, if they close the boat ramp, and the beach down especially, it's going to impact us a lot. I'd say our business will be cut in half," said Barnes.

Construction crews will mobilize in late March with a ribbon cutting scheduled for December. Avista said it will know more about closures when a contractor is finalized.

Business owners are already planning for a cone zone.

"Of course it's always a little better in the summer anyway when more people are, you know, riding the Centennial Trail on their bikes and things like that. I don't know, we're just going to have to brainstorm," Barnes said.