Water levels at Lake Koocanusa are a key focal point in ongoing federal negotiations between Canada and the United States for a new Columbia River Treaty.
Stan Doehle, Vice Chair of BC Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee told MyEastKootenayNow.com that alongside Linda Worley, Committee Chair, and the eight other elected officials on the committee, they are in discussions with BC Hydro and the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources to find short-term solutions to low water levels on Koocanusa.
Although short-term solutions are the local talking point now, Doehle said they are a key focus in federal negotiations.
“It’s front and centre in all of the talks with Global Affairs, through the Ministry, through local government on how we can make this better,” said Doehle. “There is no water use agreement on there because the dam resides in Libby, Montana, so moving forward, we want to bring that into the Treaty, the Kootenay River section of it.”
Doehle said that a solidified Columbia River Treaty the determines solidified Lake Koocanusa water levels, it will rectify a lot of the issues and concerns many are currently facing whether it be commercially, environmentally, or recreationally.
“If we end up with an agreement at the end of the day, then we’ll have defined water levels, agriculture concerns, it will take care of the recreation and also the ecosystem on there.”
While reduced snowpack is playing a role in lower water levels, Doehle believes the Columbia River Treaty can help set high standards and regulations that limit up and down years on Lake Koocanusa.
The maximum elevation for Lake Koocanusa is 2,459 feet, with July’s statistics showing midnight elevations of 2,429 feet on the 1st and 2,441 feet by the 31st.
More: July 2019 Statistics for Lake Koocanusa and Libby Dam (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
The next round of federal negotiations is taking place September 10th and 11th in Cranbrook, as those negotiations will be behind closed doors. However, Doehle said the public will be able to attend a number of community engagement events to provide their thoughts and inputs on the Columbia River Treaty.
“We will be announcing the community dates for community input and those will be advertised widely and I would really like a huge turnout at those meetings,” said Doehle. “People can voice their opinion and we need the opinion of the people out there.”
Along with public engagement, the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee is also playing a role in negotiations, as that committee is made up of 30 public citizens, ranging from environmentalists, biologists, to interest groups.