Boat launch improves access to Koocanusa Reservoir

At the official ground breaking for the Koocanusa boat launch (left to right): Alan Chan-McLeod (BC Hydro), Heath Slee (RDEK), Jennifer Osmar (Bill Bennett
At the official ground breaking for the Koocanusa boat launch (left to right): Alan Chan-McLeod (BC Hydro), Heath Slee (RDEK), Jennifer Osmar (Bill Bennett's office), Rick Allen (CBT), Lisa Cox (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations), Ray Kelly (Kootenay Power Boat Association), Erin Gravelle (Tobacco Plains Indian Band), Dean McKerracher (RDEK/Mayor of Elkford), Cindy Corrigan (RDEK/Mayor of Fernie), Neil Muth (CBT), Mike Sosnowski (RDEK), Diane Tammen (BC Hydro), Garry Merkel (Ktunaxa), MLA Bill Bennett, Nic Milligan (Teck), Chief Cheryl Casimer (Ktunaxa), Rob Gay (RDEK) and Jim Ogilvie (RDEK/Mayor Kimberley).
— image credit: Submitted

Public access to the Koocanusa Reservoir will soon be improved as a much-needed Koocanusa boat launch is currently under construction. The launch is a collaborative project between several parties, with financial support from BC Hydro, Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and Teck Resources (Teck) and land made available by the Ktunaxa Nation and the Province of BC.

"Two years ago I approached MLA Bill Bennett and described to him the frustrating situation where folks were having significant difficulties accessing the reservoir and experiencing long waits to get their boats into the water," said Ray Kelly of the Kootenay Power Boat Association. "MLA Bennett has provided strong leadership in working diligently with various community organizations, local government and First Nations to build a two-lane boat launch. We are grateful for the excellent co-operation of the funding organizations."

Located on the northwest side of Kikomun Bridge, the two-hectare site will include a ramp, floating breakwater, floating dock, outhouse, garbage receptacle and parking for up to 60 vehicles and trailers.

"The Ktunaxa Nation realizes the importance of this boat launch to the users of Koocanusa, and we are pleased that we could play a role to ensure that this land was made available for this purpose," said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair. "We are also very honoured that the launch will bear a Ktunaxa name, Yaqakxaqlamki [pronounced YA-KAK-HAK-TLAM-KEY], which simply means 'the place where the boat leaves the shore' in the Ktunaxa language."

"Thank you to BC Hydro, to Columbia Basin Trust and to Teck for stepping up and giving to our region a recreational asset that thousands will use and enjoy," said MLA Bennett. "Thanks to the Ktunaxa people for supporting this important community venture. And a sincere thank you to the Kootenay Power Boat Association for the original idea. This project would not have happened if not for the generosity and thoughtfulness of the Ktunaxa and these community organizations and the dedicated people who work within them. I am so proud to be a part of this."

Although BC Hydro does not hold a water licence for Koocanusa Reservoir, the circumstances around this reservoir are unique in that BC Hydro benefits from the flow regulation provided by Koocanusa at its downstream power plants. Local BC residents are affected by the U.S.-based Libby Dam, which is responsible for reservoir operations. BC Hydro recognizes the community's concerns about recreational opportunities and public access on the reservoir. This new boat launch will bring a similar benefit to Koocanusa Reservoir as to other reservoirs where BC Hydro is legally obligated to provide access.

In addition to their direct financial contributions, BC Hydro will provide construction management for the project.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations-Recreation Sites & Trails (RSTBC) has also been involved. Once construction is complete, the launch will be a recreation site managed through a partnership of RSTBC and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

"As the eventual operators of the boat launch, the RDEK looks forward to working with residents and visitors to ensure they have a positive experience accessing the Koocanusa Reservoir for years to come," said RDEK Vice-Chair Rob Gay.

The launch's opening is expected to take place in July 2011.

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