A new program will help protect and enhance fish, wildlife and habitats in and around Koocanusa Reservoir and its tributaries in the Kootenay River system thanks to a $3 million commitment from Columbia Basin Trust. The support will be going toward the creation of the Kootenay-Koocanusa Fish and Wildlife Program, which will help to enhance the environmental health of the area. The program will be delivered by the regionally based Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.
“Through a variety of consultation processes, Basin residents have identified a program like this to be a priority for the region,” said Neil Muth, Columbia Basin Trust President and CEO. “Support has been overwhelming, so we’re pleased to be able to partner with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program to make the idea come to fruition.”
The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program has a long history of delivering similar programs elsewhere in the Basin and the province, and has a delivery framework already in place. The existing program, which is funded by BC Hydro, is managed through a partnership with the Province of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conserve and enhance fish, wildlife and their supporting habitats affected by the creation of BC Hydro owned and operated generation facilities in the Coastal, Columbia and Peace regions of British Columbia.
By building on this existing framework, cost savings can be realized and an effective, integrated approach can be taken for delivering this new program.
“The Fish and Wildlife Program Board welcomes this opportunity to work with Columbia Basin Trust and strengthen our partnership. We are looking forward to the planning process and hearing from local community members and First Nations to develop and deliver an Action Plan that will benefit fish and wildlife in this area,” said Dave White, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Board member representing the East Kootenays.
Koocanusa Reservoir was created by the construction of Libby Dam in Montana, one of the Columbia River Treaty dams. While the other Canadian reservoirs created by the Columbia River Treaty have fish and wildlife compensation programs in place, there is no water licence associated with Libby Dam issued by the Province of B.C., so there is currently no fish and wildlife compensation program associated with the historical footprint impacts of Koocanusa Reservoir in Canada.
The new Kootenay-Koocanusa program will cover an area of more than 20,000 square kilometres, including the Kootenay River drainage and associated tributaries within Canada, such as the Elk, Bull, St. Mary’s, Lussier, White and Wigwam rivers and the Koocanusa Reservoir itself. See the map at www.cbt.org/KootenayKoocanusaProgramMap.
The next steps are to develop a Kootenay-Koocanusa Watershed Action Plan that will set goals, outcomes and proposed activities. The development of this Action Plan will be guided by a strategic planning working group made up of representatives from Columbia Basin Trust, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation board, provincial government agencies, First Nations, local governments, industry and community groups within the geographic area.