Fisheries and Oceans Canada completed a Foreshore Inventory and Mapping project on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake in 2004, and again in 2008. Within that timeframe the level of impact increased, amount of land designated as urban residential increased, and a net loss in riparian vegetation was recorded. More than 300 new docks and groynes were built in that timeframe.
The Kootenay Lake Partnership was created because of this increase in development pressure on Kootenay Lake, along with overlapping and multi-jurisdictional responsibilities across government agencies, and the subsequent cumulative impacts specifically raised by the Yaqan Nukiy, the Ktunaxa Nation and the public. This has led to conflicting policy, poor communication, un-coordinated efforts, lack of regulatory compliance, and weak public education and guidance.
The Kootenay Lake Partnership (KLP) was formed in 2010 as a multi-agency initiative to support a productive and healthy Kootenay Lake ecosystem. The partnership envisions balanced land and water uses that sustain environmental, community, recreational, aboriginal cultural, traditional, and aesthetic values. The mission of the Partnership is to share information and optimize available resources, in order to develop integrated, collaborative approaches to lake management.
The approach the partnership took was to complete a Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM) project for the entire lake. SHIM is comprised of the Foreshore Inventory, and Aquatic Habitat Index. The resulting Shoreline Management Guidelines contribute to a better understanding of ecological value of the shoreline and direct shoreline development, through the creation of a Shoreline Guidance Document, in a manner that will protect those values.
The project is part of a larger planning process in which ecological and aboriginal values are recognized within shoreline management guidelines to be used by decision-makers around the lake (government agencies, developers, homeowners). The KLP has worked for 4 years to complete other inventories of the lake including a complete assessment of ecological components (captured by Sensitive Habitat Inventory and Mapping) and the Archaeological Overview Assessment (which identifies archaeological sites and potential). In the fall of 2015 the Ktunaxa Nation Council, in cooperation with the Lower Kootenay Indian Band, completed a Cultural Values and Use Study (CVS) which inventories sites of contemporary and historical cultural use (e.g. subsistence, spiritual etc.). The findings from this study create a decision-making framework which can better guide development and activities in a sustainable manner on Kootenay Lake. Shoreline Management Guidelines exist for 10 other lakes in the Columbia Basin, however, none have completed a CVS nor integrated aboriginal values directly within the decision making protocols. This will set precedent for other lakes to meaningfully recognize and protect aboriginal values in the area.