Kootenay Lake Partnership

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Detailed Overview

Origins of the Kootenay Lake Partnership 

In January 2010, Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff (with offices in the region at that time) convened First Nations, local governments and other interests in Nelson to discuss the intensification of residential/urban and tourism development around Kootenay Lake. Common concerns and joint responsibilities were discussed, leading to agreement on the desire for a partnership initiative. The KLP was then developed, in part, to avoid a moratorium on further development in foreshore areas.

Activities That Contribute to Watershed Governance 

Increasing Understanding of Lake Health and Pressures

  • Foreshore Inventory and Mapping of Ecological Values – Following the template set out through the EKILMP and Lake Windermere Project, in 2012 the KLP conducted a foreshore inventory and mapped ecological values around Kootenay Lake.
  • Defining Geodetic Lake Level – The KLP also encouraged the provincial government to define the shoreline: because the highwater mark on Kootenay Lake fluctuates seasonally, it was often unclear where the “foreshore” existed and where provincial, federal and local jurisdiction applied.
  • Archaeological Overview Assessment – The Ktunaxa Nation Council commissioned an Archaeological Overview Assessment in 2014 to inventory and confirm the location of Indigenous archaeological sites and features. A complementary study documented contemporary Indigenous cultural values and uses (e.g. environmental features, important cultural places, lake access areas, important plant harvesting sites and camp sites). Many of these sites are sensitive, so the KLP agreed on protocols developed by the Ktunaxa Nation Council to enable mapping but conceal precise site locations.
  • Shoreline Guidance Document – The KLP is currently developing a shoreline guidance document similar to those created for the East Kootenay lakes and Lake Windermere. This guidance document will be uniquely robust because it will incorporate the archeological and cultural values assessments, along with ecological values and historical development impacts.

Developing a Government-to-Government Organizational Structure 

The KLP was explicitly designed to function as a government-to-government forum that prioritizes community concerns, including a significant focus on those of the Ktunaxa Nation. The distinct leadership role of the Ktunaxa, including Yaqan Nukiy, in the KLP’s governance structure makes it different from groups like the Lake Windermere Ambassadors or the EKILMP, where a broad range of interests are involved in addition to First Nations and other governments. The partnership has been effective to date because municipal and regional governments, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Yaqan Nukiy community have built trust with one another and the KLP process through regularly demonstrating their commitments to implement actions within their respective areas of jurisdiction and expertise and share resources and expertise. 

Strong Local Government Champion 

The RDCK is a primary funder of the operational costs of the KLP. The main RDCK representative to the KLP is a senior manager with responsibility for a diverse number of related files, including planning, bylaw enforcement and sustainability services. The representative’s seniority symbolizes the RDCK’s commitment to the process, and the RDCK is actively working to incorporate results of the KLPs inventory work into RDCK policies and zoning rules. The RDCK and other partners also recognize that the KLP’s work complements their own mandates, such as the RDCK SustainABLE Central Kootenay planning program.

Outreach and Community Engagement: Creating the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society 

The KLP recognized the importance of community involvement in shoreline management. Without participation and endorsement from property owners and lake users in lake management planning, new guidelines for lake activities might be perceived as unacceptable. In 2012, in collaboration with two environmental organizations—Wildsight and the West Kootenay EcoSociety—and with financial support from the Real Estate Foundation of BC, the KLP helped create a lake stewardship group, Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (FOKLSS), to provide a forum for community involvement in lake management and health. Although the governance structure of the KLP means that the FOKLSS does not participate in the KLP’s internal decision-making processes, the KLP is a supporter and partner in FOKLSS projects and the two groups communicate regularly.

Role in Watershed Governance

The primary ways the KLP engages in governance are through:

  • providing information to fill knowledge gaps about ecological, cultural and archeological values along the shoreline of Kootenay Lake through a partnership-based approach; 
  • offering a forum for the Ktunaxa Nation to collaborate with other levels of government; 
  • supporting integration of new information into local planning and management processes (e.g. municipal bylaws, zoning and policy); 
  • supporting a clarified and streamlined process for assessing lakeside development applications (which benefits developers, property owners, local governments, the Province and the Ktunaxa Nation); and
  • supporting the work of a community outreach organization, the FOKLSS, to conduct stewardship activities and research.