The RDEK voted to provide a letter of support for a local group that is seeking to build a weir on Lake Koocanusa — a structure that would help ensure more consistent water levels on the Canadian side of the reservoir.
The group approached the RDEK, asking for a letter of support to take to higher levels of government, as well as to negotiators discussing the terms of Columbia River Treaty, which is under review from both Canadian and American officials.
The group was formed in response to concerns over minimum water levels at the Koocanusa Reservoir, which fluctuates from year to year based on operations from the Libby Dam on the American side of the lake.
“Residents and visitors to the East Kootenay region of British Columbia have a vested interest in the operation of Lake Koocanusa water resource,” reads and appeal from the group. “At present, the variability of the water level has a negative impact on agriculture, environment stability, recreation and tourism.”
Ken Bettin, Andy Schmaltz and Mario Sccodellaro, made the presentation to the RDEK board last week, while also seeking support to access a study done by the provincial government on the feasibility of a weir on Lake Koocanusa.
Bettin pointed to the challenges faced by Kimberley transitioning to a tourism-based economy after the Sullivan Mine shut down nearly 20 years ago, and noted the importance of Lake Koocanusa as a tourism draw, if anything happened to the coal mining sector in the Elk Valley.
“The idea of building a weir is that we’d be able to develop a year-round recreation area right here,” he said. “So if the coal mines did shut down, at least we’d be proactive on developing a counter-industry.”
The group is also pursuing a study from Ministry of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources analyzing the engineering feasibility of a weir on the lake, however, it is currently in the draft stage, according to Stan Doehle, the RDEK Area B director for the South Country region.
“This [RDEK letter of support] might help put the urgency of getting that report out,” said Doehle, “So I think that’s a good thing…they’re going to know that the residents of this part of the basin area are concerned and this is what they want done. If anything, it’s going to send a clear message to the province to get that report out and have that discussion.”
According to Scodellaro, construction of a weir on the Canadian side of the reservoir would have to be approved by the United States as per the terms of the Columbia River Treaty.
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