Dams and Levees
Downstream from Bonners Ferry, in the Idaho portion of the Kootenai Valley alone, over 20,000 acres (>90%) of historic wetland habitats have been separated from the river by levees. Similar amounts of wetland habitat in the historic floodplain have also been altered along the 31-mile stretch of the Kootenay River in British Columbia. Largely built on existing natural sand levees, the levee system provides abundant agricultural opportunities in the historic floodplain. However, the levee system has largely eliminated connectivity with off-channel habitats, which historically provided important nutrient inputs and habitat diversity that helped many native fishes complete their life cycles. While Libby Dam and the lower river levee system have greatly reduced local and regional flooding, they have also reduced nutrient loading to the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake.