The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) has approved $3 million in funding for the purposes of establishing a new program aimed at protecting and enhance fish and wildlife habitats in and around Koocanusa Reservoir and its tributaries in the Kootenay River system.
The funding is a one-time amount to be spent over a period of time not exceeding five years for the creation of the Kootenay-Koocanusa Fish and Wildlife Program.
Through a partnership between CBT, the BC Ministry of Environment and BC Hydro, the existing Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program will be used as a delivery agent for this program and existing staff will be used in its implementation.
Through the partnership, the CBT is expecting cost savings and an effective, integrated approach for delivery of the program.
As a result of Koocanusa Reservoir being created by a U.S. dam and the fact that there is no water licence associated with Libby Dam issued by the Province of BC, there is currently no fish and wildlife compensation program associated with the historical footprint impacts of Koocanusa Reservoir in Canada.
“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 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.
The next steps are to develop a Kootenay-Koocanusa Watershed Action Plan that will set goals, outcomes and proposed activities.
The development of the 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.
The new program will cover an area of more than 20,000 sq. kms, 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.
A map of the region is available atwww.cbt.org/KootenayKoocanusaProgramMap.