By Joanna Bastian
If you have recently journeyed to the Met-Low, you may have noticed something lower than usual in the lower valley: Lake Pateros.
Defined as the area behind Wells Dam, Lake Pateros stretches all the way to Chief Joseph Dam and extends one mile up the Methow Valley, at the mouth of the Methow River. Since its creation in the 1960s, the reservoir lake has had several different names, including Fort Okanogan Lake and Chief Long Jim Lake, after the “last chief of the Chelans.”
Now that the water is lower, the four rock groynes constructed in the 1980s by Douglas County Public Utility District can be seen along the southern shore. The purpose of the rock groynes was to channel sediments deposited by spring tides into the middle of the Columbia River.
Thirty years later, the groynes have naturally eroded with time. The 2014 Carlton Complex Fire and floods resulted in a large amount of sediment dump during the spring flow. The extra sediment creates a flood hazard for the town of Pateros.
Meaghan Vibbert of Douglas PUD discussed the rehabbing of the rock groynes and what the PUD expects to happen next spring. Usually sitting at 781 feet above sea level, the Lake Pateros reservoir was lowered by 7 feet this last week. Douglas PUD and Wells Dam coordinated efforts with Chief Joseph Dam so multiple projects could be completed while the water was low. Both dams consulted with the fisheries to define a work window that would least impact both fish and the fishing season.
Reinforcement work on the rock groynes will help with sediment runoff and decrease flood potential. Crews are also dredging the areas around the boat launches and swimming areas to improve recreational sites.
“In spring, a runoff event will create a higher velocity in the middle of the river, which will scour the sediment buildup and wash it into the Columbia,” said Vibbert. The result will be improved habitat for birds and fish, and a lower flood potential for the town of Pateros.
The project will last approximately three weeks. At the end of September, the water levels will return to normal October seasonal elevation at 778 feet.
The Methow River itself, being a tributary of the Columbia, and flowing into Lake Pateros, is not affected by this project. The lower-than-average seasonal flow of the Methow River is the result of a low snow year, followed by record low rainfall for the region.
Pateros used to be called, “Captain Joe’s Settlement” and “Bluff at the Mouth of the River” by the Methow Indians who lived at the mouth of the Methow for at least 8,000 years and probably as long as 13,000 years before some guy named it after a Filipino village.
I propose that we change the name of Pateros to “Joe’s Bluff.” In reality, Pateros looks nothing like the Philippines and there’s no place to get a good bibingka. However, you can get a great cuppa Joe and someone is always bluffing.