Scientists: State’s Plan to Assess Upstream Mining Impacts to Koocanusa ‘Fatally Flawed’
Lake Koocanusa research and monitoring group urges ‘holistic’ approach to threatened watershed
by TRISTAN SCOTT
Members of a research and monitoring group charged with determining how to manage the effects of toxic mining contaminants spilling from the upstream waterways of British Columbia into Lake Koocanusa say the state of Montana’s scope is too narrow and its methods flawed.
The collaborative group is responsible for informing and coordinating efforts between agencies in the U.S. and Canada as they grapple with adopting a new standard for a mining byproduct called selenium. At its inaugural meeting on Oct. 29 in Eureka, the group’s steering committee tapped the technical expertise of scientists from a multitude of regulatory and academic backgrounds, who unanimously urged a more holistic approachto the problem, pushing back against the strategy set forth by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The scientists presented and discussed data that is raising grave concerns about the future of Lake Koocanusa, a sprawling reservoir basin that straddles the U.S.-Canada border and collects water from the upstream rivers of B.C., where hazardous pollutants like selenium are leaching out of coal mines and crossing the international border at an alarming rate.