The dam is part of the Columbia River System, providing storage for 15 downstream federal and non-federal hydroelectric projects on the Columbia and Pend Oreille Rivers. Albeni Falls Dam contributes nearly 1/3 of the water found in the Columbia River. Its specific power operations are under the direction of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to help meet federal system electric needs. The dam produces over 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, which is equal to supplying power to over 15,000 homes per year. This clean, renewable resource saves the U.S. from buying approximately 5 million barrels of imported oil annually. BPA markets this electricity to customers primarily in the Pacific Northwest.
Prior to construction, the natural falls located at the current site of the dam restricted flow of the river. During high spring runoff periods, this narrowed channel was unable to rapidly pass the large flows of water and thereby caused flooding upstream along the river and the lake. Construction of the dam enlarged the size of the channel at this location thereby allowing more water to pass through and reduced upstream flooding. To a lesser extent, flooding downstream on the Pend Oreille and Columbia can also be eased by temporarily impounding the spring flow of the river until flooding below has subsided.
Recreation and Navigation
Before construction, the natural lake level annually peaked at various times for only a short duration during the spring runoff. The level then dropped to a near minimum, still during the prime recreation season. The current regulation of the reservoir holds the lake at normal level constantly throughout the summer providing increased opportunity for safe navigation and water recreation during the entire summer. The project also operates a drift facility on the Clark Fork River that diverts hazardous driftwood from entering Lake Pend Oreille.