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Osoyoos Lake International Water Control Structure - Zosel Dam

Last Update October 17, 2016



Survey work on channel above Zosel Dam Survey crews will be taking measurements this week to better understand and profile changes that occur over time in the channel of the Okanogan River above Zosel Dam in Oroville.

While the gradient between the lake and the dam is quite low, rain events and snow melt over time can cause sedimentation in the channel that could impede the dam’s ability to pass high water. The dam operator has a commitment to understanding these issues and provide information to allow for better management of the dam’s facilities throughout the year.

Ecology environmental assessment crews will conduct the work along the shoreline and from boat-mounted survey equipment. Teams may be seen around the area over the next two weeks beginning Oct. 18, 2016. Their work is meant to keep the Zosel dam project safe and functioning for years to come.

For more information on the operation of Zosel Dam or Lake Osoyoos, contact:

Al Josephy
Department of Ecology - WR
Phone: 360 407-6456

September 12, 2016 - Following a 4.2 magnitude earthquake in lower British Columbia Saturday, the operators at the Zosel Dam in Oroville will be doing a non-routine inspection of the facilities during the week of September 12.  This will include running the four gates fully open and then closed to make sure no damage has occurred there.  This may show up in USGS monitoring devices, which can be viewed online, which will moderately affect both levels in Lake Osoyoos as well as in the Okanogan River below Oroville for a few hours.

Following this week, Zosel Dam operators will begin lowering the level of Lake Osoyoos to winter operational levels.  This process will be gradual and continue into November.

August 29, 2016 - Dam operators in Penticton, British Columbia are raising flows in the Okanagan River to improve conditions for salmon in Lake Osoyoos.  Beginning Aug. 29 and continuing for approximately eight days, Canadian authorities will be ramping up flows from Lake Okanagan from current late summer levels to about 1,250 cubic feet per second.

For questions, please contact:

Al Josephy
Department of Ecology - WR
Phone: 360 407-6456


Zosel Dam, the dam in the U.S. that currently maintains Osoyoos Lake levels, was initially built in 1926 by William Zosel. Mr. Zosel owned a sawmill along the Okanogan River in the town of Oroville, WA, and needed a millpond for the storage of sawmill logs.  Mr. Zosel received the necessary permissions to build the dam, but it appears that no consideration was given at the time to potential impacts of the dam on Osoyoos Lake levels in Canada.  Operation of the dam at this time caused fluctuations in lake levels and lakeshore flooding.

By the early 1940s, local residents complained about lake conditions to the International Joint Commission (IJC), which had been created as a result of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to adjudicate transboundary water-body disputes.  In 1946, the IJC issued its first Order of Approval for Zosel Dam, which established dam operating requirements.  These Orders have been modified twice since, most recently in 2013.  The Orders largely address lake levels as their main concern.

By the 1970’s this wooden structure had fallen into severe disrepair.  As the Zosel operation had largely abandoned the dam, it fell to the State of Washington to propose a fix to the situation, in order to continue to maintain lake levels at Lake Osoyoos.  Working cooperatively with the Province of British Columbia, a plan was put in place to build a new, all-concrete dam structure.

Project Description:

Construction of Zosel Dam was completed in April 1987 at Oroville.  The site of the new dam is two miles downstream from the Osoyoos Lake outlet and nine miles south of the United States/Canadian border.  The Department of Ecology owns this structure for the State, but the local irrigation district, Oroville Tonasket maintains the site and structure for the State.

To improve channel capacity, dredging was completed upstream from the new dam.  Sand bars that partially blocked the channel at the Osoyoos Lake outlet were removed.  Also, sedimentation buildup at the confluence of Tonasket Creek with the Okanogan River was dredged.  Channel improvements were completed in early 1988.  The State continues to monitor channel conditions on a regular basis as part of the Orders of Control.

Improvements were also made at the Osoyoos Lake State Park.  A sheet pile wall was installed along 600 feet of the west bank of the state park to improve bank stability along the Osoyoos Lake outlet.  A new boat launch, sidewalk, handrail, and rock fill-groin at the beach were included in the project.

In the News

Ecology News Release - July 31, 2015

Water levels rising at Lake Osoyoos as spring snow melt proceeds  ECOconnect Blog, May 15, 2015

What do a salmon and a beloved dog have in common?  ECOconnect Blog, May 1, 2015


Al Josephy
Department of Ecology - WR
Phone: 360 407-6456