Fish and Wildlife program on the way for Kootenay-Koocanusa area

A new program will help protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and habitats in and around Koocanusa Reservoir.

Lake Koocanusa.

Lake Koocanusa.

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.

Columbia Basin Trust is teaming up with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program to create the Kootenay-Koocanusa Fish and Wildlife 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.

“The Fish and Wildlife Program board welcomes this opportunity to work with Columbia Basin Trust and strengthen our partnership,” commented Dave White, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Board member representing the East Kootenays. “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.”

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 already have fish and wildlife compensation programs in place, there is no water licence associated with Libby Dam issued by the Province of BC; meaning 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, as well as the Koocanusa Reservoir itself.

Columbia Basin Trust has made a $3 million commitment to the program, which will be delivered by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

The first step is to develop a Kootenay-Koocanusa Watershed Action Plan that will outline goals, outcomes, and proposed activities. The planning process 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, and industry and community groups within the geographic area.