A 10-person committee charged with developing a plan to manage the Spirit Lake/ Toutle River system has been appointed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
The first of its four committee meetings will be held Tuesday in Kelso.
Among other things, the new committee will identify possible alternatives for long-term management of water levels and sediment transport in the Spirit Lake/Toutle River system.
The committee chairman is Gregory Baecher, professor of engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park.
Gina Owens, forest supervisor for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, said in a press release, “This effort is a critical piece to the complex effort to provide for Spirit Lake outflow within this dynamic, volcanic landscape.”
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens caused an avalanche of volcanic debris that blocked the natural flow of water out of Spirit Lake and into the Toutle River. In 1985, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 1.6-mile outflow tunnel that was used to manually control water levels in the lake and prevent a natural failure of the blockage, which could result in a catastrophic release of floodwater and debris downstream toward populated areas.
Recent repairs to the tunnel helped to restore its intended water flow capabilities. However, as the tunnel approaches its fourth decade of service, it will require several million dollars of repair and maintenance over the next 10 years.
Public participation in meetings and field site visits is allowed on a first-come, first-served basis. Remote viewings of meetings will be available online.
Additional information on the Spirit Lake outflow tunnel can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/giffordpinchot/. The agenda for the first commission meeting is available online at http://dels.nas.edu/Study-In-Progress/Long-term-Management-Spirit/DELS-BESR-15-0 For answers to specific questions, email Nick Rogers at email@example.com. Citizens intending to attend the public meetings are asked to RSVP to Courtney Gibbs via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.