Bureau of Reclamation is lowering Banks Lake

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There are plans to take Banks Lake down by 30 feet starting Aug. 1 to complete maintenance work at Dry Falls Dam and North Dam.

COULEE CITY - Starting Aug. 1, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will lower Banks Lake by 30 feet to complete an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million worth of work at Dry Falls Dam and North Dam.

The activities involve maintenance on the main canal headworks at Dry Falls Dam and the feeder canal at the North Dam on Banks Lake, explained Stephanie Utter, the manager at the Bureau's Ephrata office.

Workers are putting in measures to protect existing facilities by placing a building over equipment at Dry Falls Dam, completing underwater work on gates and improving worker safety by adding extra parking.

The bureau expects to reach the target elevation by the end of October. 

"There are several target elevations we want to hit," she said. 

The Bureau is formulating what the impacts are and addressing the protection of cultural, recreation and natural resources, Utter said. 

The work cannot be done in the winter because the lake must be lowered to reach the facilities, she explained. 

"It sounds like a lot, but we have a footprint on what it will look like," she said. "It's not as bad as it sounds. It's a pretty deep reservoir and it will still have a lot of water in it."

The last time the lake was taken down was in the 1960s, and later for milfoil control in the early to mid-1990s.

The affected communities are aware of what it happening.

"We have been working with them on the early planning phases clear back to 2008 and several of our managing partners are looking at doing maintenance," Utter said.

At Coulee City, there are plans to work on the swim beach area and expand boat moorage sites, she said.

She understands that Sunbanks Resort is considering some work on their boat launch facilities.

"I think Coulee Playland Resort would like to do some bank stabilization they wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to do at normal operation levels," Utter said.

The upcoming work isn't a surprise to those in the area, she said.

"They've been gearing up and saving up," Utter said. "I know a few entities had been saving money in anticipation of this opportunity."

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