A photo of Libby Dam. (Photo Contributed by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation)

A photo of Libby Dam. (Photo Contributed by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation)

Government of B.C. explores construction of weir across Koocanusa Reservoir

A virtual town hall meeting will be held on Jan. 12 to gather public input and discuss the study

The Government of B.C. is hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Jan. 12 to discuss and gather public feedback on a feasibility study exploring the construction of a weir across the Koocanusa Reservoir, spanning the B.C.-Montana border south of Jaffray.

The request comes from public concerns about water level changes in the summer and their impact on recreation on the Canadian side of the reservoir. The changing water levels are a result of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ operations at Libby Dam on the American side of the border.

“The independent study commissioned by the Province states that that a weir/dam would have positive impacts for recreation (notably boating, swimming and fishing) on the B.C. side of the border,” said Kathy Eichenberger, executive director of the Provincial Columbia River Treaty Team.

“A dam would maintain a consistent, minimum reservoir level during the summer/fall season, and these reservoir levels would increase as Libby Dam brings the Koocanusa reservoir to full later during the season. A weir would also potentially result in increased tourism.”

The results of the feasibility study were released in a report issued on Jan. 8 outlining the preliminary costs, impacts and benefits of building the dam.

According to Eichenberger, negative effects would include impacts to navigation, hydro power generation, fisheries and flood management on the American side. The endeavour would also be notably costly.

”According to estimates by the independent consultant, the cost of building a weir/dam would be significant, as would the operating costs,” said Eichenberger, who added that given the factors involved, including Indigenous Nation and public consultation, the project is proposed to cost significantly more than $400 million.

“Another factor is operating and maintenance costs, which could range from $560,000 and $1.4 million, annually. Also, there is no clear party who would fund, own or operate the structure.”

Eichenberger added that changes proposed to the Koocanusa Reservoir’s water flow would require substantial engagement with the Ktunaxa Nation and the U.S.

“Our government’s approach is to engage with the public, Basin Indigenous Nations and local communities as much as we can on issues related to the Columbia River Treaty,” added Eichenberger, highlighting the importance of community input.

“Participating in this town hall, as with any of the other similar events we have held and will hold in the future, is a way for communities to connect and make their voices heard.”

For more information, including copies of the report and a Zoom link for the virtual town hall scheduled for Jan. 12 at 7 p.m., visit the Government of B.C’s website. To call into the meeting, phone 1-833-955-1088, meeting ID 646-2736-3110.

Any questions for the virtual town hall must be emailed to columbiarivertreaty@gov.bc.ca before Jan. 12 at noon.

Feedback on the report is accepted until Feb. 12, and can be emailed to columbiarivertreaty@gov.bc.ca or mailed to Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Columbia River Treaty, PO Box 9314 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria BC V8W 9N1.

READ MORE: Teck, Ktunaxa sign conservation agreement on 7,150 hectares of land


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