Kootenay Lake is a large waterbody located in southeastern British Columbia between the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains. The main sources of water include the Lardeau, Duncan and upper Kootenay Rivers, while its outflow contributes to the Columbia River. Kootenay Lake is an important cultural and ecological touchstone for the 20,000 people who live within 2.5 km of its shoreline, and for the many species that depend upon the lake ecosystem.
First Nations people have been in the Kootenay Lake area for over 10,000 years. There is an extraordinarily rich cultural history filled with lessons on how we can live in balance with the lake.
Kootenay Lake is facing changes associated with higher rates of residential development and conflicting demands for recreational opportunities, while still coping with ongoing impacts from upstream and downstream hydro-electric development. Development can exert pressures on the foreshore, ecosystems, water quality and the local balance between social and economic interests. As the lake becomes more popular with recreational users, environmental impacts and user conflicts can arise. Although the extent of climate change impacts are unknown, it is likely that it will affect water quality, fish and wildlife habitats and populations, as well as human activities that rely on the lake.
These challenges are set against a complicated regulatory environment, where public agencies from every level of government have legal jurisdiction over some aspect of the lake. Focused agency mandates, combined with insufficient coordinating mechanisms between agencies, often make it difficult to balance economic, social and environmental interests. In addition, the need for long-term solutions often conflicts with short-term priority setting.
In 2010, an multi-level inter-governmental initiative, the Kootenay Lake Partnership (KLP), began a planning initiative to improve lake management. This program includes: inventory and analysis of baseline data related to Kootenay Lake, development of lake management guidelines, strategies and measures to be incorporated into management programs of the various partner agencies, development of monitoring strategies and the formulation of a lake management plan. FoKL will provide a way for communities on Kootenay Lake to have their voices heard in this planning process.