Spring has sprung and lake levels held in check as snowpack dwindles

Spring is in the air and in the level of Kootenay Lake as the flag has dropped on the beginning of the spring freshet, according to the International Kootenay Lake Board of Control.

Despite a low snowpack — currently sitting at 72 per cent of normal in the West Kootenay —through the first three months of 2024 FortisBC “remains in compliance with the IJC Order of Approval for Kootenay Lake and is prepared for the beginning of the spring freshet,” said Martin Suchy, Canadian secretary for the International Kootenay Lake Board of Control (IKLBC).

He said the late winter and early spring hydrological conditions in the Kootenay Lake watershed are shown to be below average this year. Suchy said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is reporting similar percentages across the region, at 82 per cent of the 30-year period of record normal in the Kootenai Basin.

Sometimes you’re up

Kootenay Lake elevation — measured at Queen’s Bay — as of April 10 is 1,739.32 feet (530.14 metres). It is near 60th percentile of the 1976-2023 period of record.

“Corra Linn Dam will be operated to hold the lake level at Queen’s Bay below 1,739.32 ft. (530.14 m.) until the commencement of spring rise has been declared by the board, which corresponds with the beginning of the spring freshet,” said Suchy.

During spring freshet, the maximum allowable level of Kootenay Lake is calculated based on the lowering formula defined in the Order until the lake returns to an elevation of 1743.32 ft. as measured at Nelson, he added.

“Reaching 1,743.32 ft at Nelson will mark the end of the freshet period for the Kootenay Lake basin,” said Suchy. “In the spring when inflow is increasing and Kootenay Lake is rising, Grohman Narrows (not Corra Linn Dam) limits the maximum outflow from Kootenay Lake.”

Source: International Kootenay Lake Board of Control

Further afield

The board of control oversees the operation of Corra Linn Dam to manage water levels in Kootenay Lake.

This year’s board and public meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, with Bonners Ferry, Idaho hosting the meeting (6:30 p.m.) There is a virtual option, with virtual registration found here.

The web-based Kootenay Lake visualization tool is available for the public to investigate Kootenay Lake conditions in dry, normal and wet years (click here).

Source: International Kootenay Lake Board of Control

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily