Information Regarding Review of Duck Lake Orders

On October 7, 2002, the International Joint Commission decided to review its jurisdiction over Duck Lake. This document provides an overview of Duck Lake, the history of the Commission's involvement with Duck Lake, the general nature of its current jurisdiction over Duck Lake, the reasons for conducting the review, and the process for conducting the review. Duck Lake Public input is an important part of the review, and comments are invited.

Overview of Duck Lake
Duck Lake is a 4000-acre (1,619-hectare) project in British Columbia near the Idaho border at the upstream end of Kootenay Lake. It is isolated from Kootenay Lake by a system of dykes. Duck Lake is divided by a dyke into two areas: an 850-acre (344-hectare) nesting area at the southern end, and a 3,150-acre (1275-hectare) area at the northern end. Water levels within Duck Lake can be adjusted by opening gates in the dyke that separates it from Kootenay Lake. When the gates are open, water levels in Duck Lake will rise or fall depending on whether Kootenay Lake levels are higher or lower than Duck Lake levels. Water in Duck Lake can also be pumped into Kootenay Lake.

History of Commission Involvement with Duck Lake
In accordance with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, the U.S. and Canadian Governments may request the approval of the International Joint Commission for a project in one country that will raise the water level in the other country, as was done for Duck Lake.

In 1942, the Creston Reclamation Company Limited applied for permission to build dykes and reclaim flood lands along the Kootenay River. The request was put aside because of the war and in order to obtain more information. After holding public hearings, the Commission decided in 1949 to approve the application subject to certain conditions. The approval and conditions are contained in the Commission's August 6, 1949 Order of Approval.

The Creston Valley Reclamation Company Limited filed a further application with the Commission in 1950 for a revised proposal limiting reclamation to 3,200 acres (1295 hectares) and proposing to store water in the remainder of Duck Lake for wildlife purposes and winter water release. After holding public hearings, the Commission approved this application subject to certain conditions and issued an October 12, 1950 Order of Approval.

In 1954, the Creston Valley Reclamation Company Limited and the Duck Lake Dyking District applied jointly for a modification of the 1950 Order of Approval concerning water level measurements and gate operations. After holding public hearings, the Commission issued an April 3, 1956 Order of Approval.

The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority, established in 1968 by a British Columbia Statute, applied in 1969 for further amendment to the earlier Order for approval of the construction of a dyke to divide Duck Lake into two areas, a water fowl nesting area and a flood control reservoir. After holding public hearings, the Commission issued a March 31, 1970 Order of Approval.

General Nature of Current Commission Jurisdiction
The 1950 Order, as amended in 1956 and 1970, remains in effect today1. Its major provisions include the following, which are listed here in general terms. (The 1950 Order itself, as amended, is the authoritative text and is available at .)
  • Authorized the construction, maintenance, and operation by the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority of certain dykes, pumps, and re-circulation works.
  • Specifies that the owners and operators shall indemnify, to the Commission's satisfaction, any persons or interests on the United States side of the boundary who may suffer damage or injury attributable to the dykes. Specifies that nothing in the Order shall be construed as relieving the owner and operator of claims for damage sustained by reason of its works in Canada or the United States not otherwise provided for by the Order.
  • Required appropriate government approvals in Canada.
  • Specified certain dyke crest elevations, pipe sizes and invert elevations, and minimum pumping capacity.
  • Allowed lowered water levels during construction. Specified construction timetable.
  • Required water levels in the 850-acre (344-hectare) nesting area to be maintained at elevation 1744 feet (532.57 meters), with provision for completely pumping out the nesting area if required to control undesirable plant growth.
  • Required installation and reading of a water-level gage near the outlet structure.
  • Required, in years of low local spring supply to Duck Lake and when the 3,150-acre (1275-hectare) area is not at or above elevation 1745 feet (531.88 meters), that the gates in the Duck Lake outlet structure be opened when falling Kootenay Lake levels approach 1745.0 feet (531.88 meters) to permit Duck Lake to rise to a maximum elevation of 1745.0 feet (531.88 meters), after which the gates might be closed until the start of the storage drawdown period (on or about January 7 of the following year.)
  • Required the opening of the gates in the Duck Lake outlet structure by January 7 of each year, and required the gates to remain open during the Kootenay Lake drawdown period to permit the level of the 3,150-acre (1275 hectare) portion of Duck Lake to recede with that of Kootenay Lake.
  • Assigned the Commission's International Kootenay Lake Board of Control responsibility for overseeing implementation of the Commission's Order.
  • Retained Commission jurisdiction over the matter.
Reasons for Conducting a Review of the Order
Questions have been raised by the public recently regarding the management of water levels within Duck Lake. In particular, concerns have been raised regarding the possible impact of Duck Lake water levels on bass, and a request has been made to transfer the management of Duck Lake water levels to local authorities.

The Commission also considered potential remaining transboundary impacts of the Duck Lake project. The preamble to the1949 Order of Approval identified water level impacts at the international boundary, as determined by an April 1, 1947 interim report of the International Columbia River Engineering Board, and downstream power impacts. For floods lower than the natural bank elevations along the Kootenay River, the then-proposed Duck Lake dikes were determined to have negligible effect on water levels at the international boundary - probably less than an inch (less than 3 centimeters). For certain rare floods where the Kootenay River would overtop the natural bank elevations but not the then-proposed Duck Lake dikes, the Duck Lake dikes would restricted these floods and cause a maximum increase in water levels of about 4-5 inches (about 10-13 centimeters) at the international boundary. These effects would become progressively less upstream, with effects at Bonners Ferry approximately half that at the boundary. The highest possible floods, such as that of 1894, were expected to overflow and to destroy or damage seriously all reclamation projects on the Flats whether or not the then-proposed Duck Lake dikes were built. The International Kootenay Lake Board of Control informed the Commission that the construction approved by its 1970 Order would result in a negligible increase in water levels at the international boundary, compared with levels attributable to the Duck Lake project as approved by the 1950 Order.

Noting that it had been over 30 years since the Order had been reviewed, the Commission asked its International Kootenay Lake Board of Control to inform it whether the structures approved in the Commission's Orders could still raise water levels in the United States. The Board advised the Commission that the outer dykes encompassing Duck Lake still have the potential to increase water levels outside the Duck Lake system on the Kootenay River in the United States. The magnitude of such increased levels, approximately 4-5 inches (10-13 centimeters) at the boundary and progressively less upstream, remains relatively unchanged; however, the frequency of this occurrence has been considerably reduced by Libby and Duncan Dams and is probably now a 4-5 inch (10-13 centimeter) effect at the boundary every 100-200 years or less.) Water level management inside the Duck Lake system does not appear to affect water levels in the United States but may have some implications for downstream hydropower generation.

Given public concerns, the 30-year period since the last Order, and the reduced but continuing potential for transboundary effects, the Commission decided on October 7, 2002 to review the Order for Duck Lake without prejudice to the end result.

Process for Conducting a Review of the Duck Lake Order
Public comment will be an important and integral part of the overall process, and will help shape the scope of the work undertaken. The ultimate length of the review process will depend in large part on the determined scope and the available resources to address that scope.

Feb. 18, 2003 Provide information to the public and initiate first comment period. Comments will help the Commission identify issues and determine the scope of the needed review.
May 20, 2003 End of first comment period.
Summer 2003 Provide information to the public summarizing the comments received and setting forth the planned scope of and timeframe for the needed review. Identify any planned studies and, if funding permits, initiate them.
Fall 2003 Hold public meeting to invite further comment, including on the process to date and on any available results or proposals.

1A January 9, 2003 Supplementary Order, which provides temporary authority for altered Duck Lake operations in light of dry conditions, expires at the start of the 2003 spring rise.