Koocanusa recreational issues to the fore

Problems with recreational use of Koocanusa will be looked into more deeply during a new "scoping exercise".

Problems with recreational use of Koocanusa will be looked into more deeply during a new “scoping exercise”.

The Regional District of East Kootenay, relevant B.C. government ministries and Columbia Basin Trust will work together to identify priority issues on Crown land in the area around Koocanusa reservoir.

Area B Director Heath Slee told the RDEK board on Friday, Feb. 14 that he and board chair Rob Gay met in January with Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, “to have a discussion about some of the many issues that have been raised about concerns on Lake Koocanusa, whether that’s unregulated ATV traffic or partying or litter on the landscape and the impact that it’s having on that natural resource and the importance of putting some resources towards promoting some of these activities,” Slee said.

Columbia Basin Trust has agreed to fund the scoping exercise.

A consultant will be hired to analyze issues such as recreational camping, off-road vehicle use, and compliance and enforcement on Crown land.

“You’ve all heard the constant litany of concerns about issues on Lake Koocanusa, whether it’s enforcement or garbage or whatever,” said Slee. “I think we really need to take heed of this opportunity and move forward with it.”

The consultant will talk to responsible agencies, residents and businesses to find the issues and identify what is preventing addressing the issue.

A working group on the exercise will consist of CBT, RDEK staff, B.C. government representatives and the Ktunaxa.

“Hopefully, we are going to have some benefits that will pay off in the long term in allaying the concerns of some residents and identifying those areas of the most need. So I look forward to the results of this,” said Slee.

Last summer, the RDEK board of directors addressed concerns about large music concerts taking place on Crown land around Koocanusa. At the time, Slee and Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher expressed concerns that some of the less organized events were disturbing family campers.