Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake

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Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake
Gifford Ferry.JPG
Gifford Ferry crossing Lake Roosevelt near Inchelium; James Stripes photo
Location Washington, US
Coordinates 47°57′22″N 118°58′50″W / 47.95611°N 118.98056°W / 47.95611; -118.98056Coordinates: 47°57′22″N 118°58′50″W / 47.95611°N 118.98056°W / 47.95611; -118.98056 at Grand Coulee Dam
Lake type reservoir
Primary inflows Columbia River
Primary outflows Columbia River
Basin countries United States
Surface area 125 sq mi (320 km2)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (also called Lake Roosevelt) is the reservoir created in 1941 by the impoundment of the Columbia River by the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state. It is named for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was President during the construction of the dam. Before the death of President Roosevelt, it was known as Empire Lake.[1] Covering 125 square miles (80,000 acres), it stretches about 150 miles from the Canadian border to Grand Coulee Dam, with over 600 miles of shoreline; it is the largest lake and reservoir in Washington,[2][3] and home of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

The reservoir lies in parts of five counties in northeastern Washington; roughly in descending order of lake acreage they are Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Okanogan, and Grant counties. A good indication of the extent of the lake can be seen from a map centered about the town of Inchelium 48°17′49″N 118°11′48″W / 48.29694°N 118.19667°W / 48.29694; -118.19667.

Pollution litigation[edit]

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake looking downstream toward Grand Coulee Dam

The lake is downstream from the Trail Smelter, and has been the subject of litigation over environmental concerns.

COMINCO's smelter deposited slag from its plant into the Columbia River, which then flowed into Lake Roosevelt. Environmental concerns were raised when these deposits were found to include mercury, lead and zinc. This discovery led the nearby indigenous group, the Colville Confederated Tribes, to take action against COMINCO and hold them responsible for degrading the water quality of the lake. The pollution raised health concerns for tribe members, who used the beaches and campsites along the river and ate fish from the river "for subsistence, cultural and spiritual reasons".[4] The lawsuit, launched in 2004, was unique in that it demanded COMINCO comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order to provide funding for pollution studies of the Trail operation. In a media statement released in 2003, COMINCO agreed to invest $13-million for studies of the health and ecology of Lake Roosevelt, as well as fund the cleanup required to rid the lake of metal contamination associated with the company's smelting practices;[5] although the company's agreement to fund the studies was well-intentioned, the Colville Confederated Tribes countered that COMINCO's offer was inadequate because it "did not meet the quality of studies and cleanup guarantees that would be required under EPA rules".[6] The case is ongoing.

The lawsuit between COMINCO and the Colville Confederated Tribes sparked more tensions between Canada and the U.S. over transborder environmental laws. As a Canadian company, COMINCO felt that their operation was being unfairly targeted because the lawsuit was ordering them to follow an American governing body's orders to clean up Lake Roosevelt. COMINCO also objected to the implication in the lawsuit that it was the only company responsible for the pollution of Lake Roosevelt.[7]

In 1994, COMINCO stopped depositing smelting byproducts into the Columbia River and in 2004 reportedly spent about $1-billion modernizing the Trail plant and reducing its emissions.[8]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ Big Empire Lake Now a Reality, Colville Examiner, August 2, 1941
  2. ^ List of lakes in Washington
  3. ^ Lake Roosevelt NRA: The Story of the Columbia Basin Project (Data on the Dam and Project)
  4. ^ Geranios, Nicholas. "Colvilles sue Teck Cominco over pollution". Associated Press Newswires (July 22, 2004)
  5. ^ Geranios, 2004
  6. ^ Geranios, 2004
  7. ^ Geranios, 2004
  8. ^ Stueck, 2004


  • Geranios, Nicholas. "Colvilles sue Teck Cominco over pollution." Associated Press Newswires (July 22, 2004).
  • Stueck, Wendy. “Teck Cominco asks U.S. court to dismiss lawsuit.” The Globe and Mail (August 27, 2004): B4.

External links[edit]