The Libby dam in Libby, Montana.

Officials expecting lower water levels at Koocanusa reservoir

BC Hydro anticipating lower snowpack, lower water flows through regional river systems

Due to a lower snowpack, water levels at Lake Koocanusa are expected to peak roughly 10-15 feet below reservoir capacity in August, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Steve Barton, the USACE chief, Columbia Basin Water Management Division, said the snowpack is currently between 75-80 per cent of average and that there is a very low risk of flooding in the Koocanusa area.

“There’s a very low risk of flooding of the Kootenay system this year and as we’ve been operating at minimums at the project for much of the period between Jan. 1 to when we restarted refill operations, we’re trying to conserve water so that we have as much to work with this year as we can, given the expected dry conditions,” said Barton.

The reservoir, which services the Libby Dam, has a maximum elevation capacity of 2,459 feet. Barton notes that residents living around Lake Koocanusa will see lower water levels than normal at the summer peak.

The lower than average snowpack is likely to affect river systems across Columbia and Kootenay basins, added Darren Sherbot, Manager, Operations, with BC Hydro.

“For context, across the rest of the system in the Columbia, we have seen similar low water supply forecasts, so our big water reservoirs — Kinbasket, Arrow, Revelstoke, Duncan,” he said. “So it’s not just Koocanusa that’s facing the challenges this year, it’s across the whole Columbia Basin on the Canadian side as well.”

READ: U.S. and Canada continue to talk Columbia River Treaty

Sherbot added that this year’s water levels are shaping up the seventh lowest in nearly 60 years of record keeping.

“So for operations from our Duncan reservoir and our flows to the Kootenay river systems through the canal plants, there’s sufficient water there to meet our minimum fisheries flows for bull trout, Kokanee, rainbow trout downstream throughout the year as well, but we’ll be closely watching as the use will be on Koocanusa to manage our water supply,” Sherbot said.

Across the border, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also monitoring the flows to and the resulting impacts on spawning sturgeon.

Jason Flory, a biologist with the organization, said a water flow ‘pulse’ was stretched out for a longer period of time at a lower level rather than shooting for peak flow release.

“What we found was after the spawning season was over and we downloaded the telemetry data, we got more spawning adult sturgeon upstream of Bonner’s Ferry, where we’ve been trying to get them for years, than we’d ever seen in the past,” said Flory.

Flory said that a fertilized sturgeon egg was collected upstream of Bonner’s Ferry for the first time ever, meaning that there is some spawning occurring in that area.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen any of that going on,” Flory said.

The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho has also been instrumental in aiding the sturgeon recovery effort, leading habitat restoration projects along the Kootenay River.

BC Hydro has been touring communities in the Basin regions to update the public on expected water levels and flows and resulting impacts on local waterways. The crown corporation is also serving as a technical advisor in the current Columbia River Treaty negotiations between the Canadian and American federal governments.

The treaty is a 60-year water management agreement between the two countries that provides for power generation and flood risk management in the U.S. through the construction of four dams — three in Canada and one in Montana.

However, the construction of the dams flooded approximately 110,000 hectares of land, impacting the environment, farming, forestry, tourism and Indigenous communities and traditional territories.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Grand Forks council denies pot shop for Weeds Glass & Gifts

The company owns two buildings in the city and is currently renting one to a competitor

PLACE NAMES: Grand Forks neighbourhoods, Part 2

No nuts were grown in Almond Gardens

Warming centre has until July 31 to vacate 7500 Donaldson Dr.

The landlord of the building sent a letter to operators earlier in July

Christina Lake homecoming welcomes all to the party

Tenth annual homecoming celebrates founders, volunteers and lakers

Residents push Grand Forks council to support with flood buyouts

Staff estimate a $6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read