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· Rich Wetlands in the Creston Valley
· Yaqan Nukiy, People of the Water
· Too Much Water
This is a link to a map of the waters of British Columbia with optional close-ups of the Southeastern Valleys and Vancouver Island's West Coast.

FOCUS  Southeastern Valleys -- Fresh Waters

Rich Wetlands in the Creston Valley
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This is a photograph of a Coeur d'Alene Salamander walking on moss.
The Coeur d'Alene Salamander is an extremely rare amphibian in British Columbia. Leah Ramsay.
Once widespread in southeastern British Columbia, Leopard Frogs now apparently live only in a small corner of the Creston Valley marshes. The Coeur d'Alene Salamander shuns marshes and wetlands, but seeks out shady, wet, deeply fractured rock close to running water. In British Columbia, it is known from only a few creeks in the Creston Valley and Kootenay Lake area, and in the Arrow Lakes valley.

Since the 1890s, 9,300 hectares of the 16,000-hectare Kootenay River floodplain have been dyked for agriculture, eliminating the natural habitat. Conservationists and biologists recommended that the remaining valuable wetland be saved as a wildlife reserve. The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA) was created in 1968, but the area now must be intensively managed within 17 separate dyked compartments. Pumps manipulate water levels, and some sections may be temporarily drained to control aquatic vegetation and recycle nutrients. Other areas are planted to lure birds away from nearby crops.

The Duncan Dam was built 10 kilometres above the north end of Kootenay Lake in 1967, and in 1972 the Libby Dam was built on the Kootenay River in Montana. Both dams have profoundly affected the ecology of the Kootenay River and Kootenay Lake. They eliminated much fish spawning habitat and riverside wetland habitat. Most of the silt and nutrients carried by these rivers settled out in the reservoirs above the dams and was not carried down to their floodplains. Kootenay Lake starved, its nutrients declining to one-third of earlier levels. Food chains began to collapse, and by 1990 the Kokanee (non-sea-going Sockeye Salmon) population had declined precipitously. The big Bull Trout and Rainbow Trout that fed on the smaller Kokanee also suffered. Only after an extensive program of artificial fertilization of the lake was begun in 1992 did these fish begin to recover. Fertilization increased the plankton eaten by small fish, which in turn fed the larger fish.

Kokanee spawn in Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake.Douglas Leighton.
This is a photograph of Kokanee spawning in Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake.
The dams also altered the river's flow by holding back water during the spring floods and releasing it in the fall and winter. Numbers of the huge, uncommon White Sturgeon declined following the construction of the Libby Dam, and by the 1990s few, if any, young fish had entered the population for over 20 years. Sturgeon spawn in the spring in fast, deep water, and those conditions were gone. So far, the species has survived here only because individuals live a long time. Much remains to be done to ensure the long-term survival of this population.
Rich Wetlands in the Creston Valley -