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Naming of the Dam

Albeni Falls Dam was named for an early pioneer, Albeni Poirier. Peter Albeni Poirier was born June 29th, 1861 in Roubille, Quebec, Canada. He was the eighth of fourteen children born to Edouard Poirier, who was a 10th generation French Canadian. The promise of free land to be settled and the urging of brother Joseph was what convinced Albeni and his brother Louis to come to this area. They came driving a herd of cattle and started a joint venture in farming and raising cattle. When Albeni discovered this area, 14 miles from his home in Blanchard, ID., he sold out his half of the business to his brother and moved here to set up his new home. The Native Americans destroyed his first camp while Albeni was out getting supplies in an effort to discourage him from staying. But he had already fallen in love with the falls and had no plans of leaving. Soon after he’d built himself a homesteader’s log cabin, he added a two-story hotel and eatery to accommodate hunters, fisherman, and prospectors coming through the area. Later he added a large barn, blacksmith shop, saloon and dance hall. In 1894 the little community had the first schoolhouse of the area. The saloon and dance hall attracted many people on Saturday nights. Many would ride the train in from Spokane in the morning and return again in the evening. Due to poor health and eventual blindness Albeni left the farm to live in Spokane. He passed away, March 29th 1936. We honor Albeni Poirier by naming several things after him such as the Albeni Falls Dam, Albeni Cove Recreation Area and Highway 2 that runs through Priest River, ID.

Facts

  • Albeni Falls Dam is located 90 miles upstream from where it enters the mighty Columbia River.
  • Lake Pend Oreille is the biggest and deepest lake in Idaho with an average depth of 545 feet but can plunge to as deep as 1237 feet.
  • Riley Creek Recreation Area is consistently one of the highest utilized Corps camgrounds in the United States.
  • Albeni Falls Dam produces over 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
  • Each generator’s power compares to 19,600 large strong horses.
  • The Pend Oreille River is one of only a few rivers in the world that flow north.
  • The dam was named after an early settler named Albeni Poirier.
  • The name “Pend Oreille” derives from the French name for a local tribe of Indians that wore pendant ornaments in their earlobes.
  • A time capsule was placed in concrete in the 1st bay of the dam on October 16, 1952.
  • Albeni Falls Dam has a unique feature that no other Corps dam has--a log chute.
  • The dam was dedicated on Friday, June 24, 1955.
  • Why It Was Built

    Hydropower

    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.

    Flood Control

    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.