Kathy Eichenberger, executive director for the Columbia River Treaty review, answers questions during a community meeting held in 2018 in Revelstoke. (Nathan Kunz photo)

Kathy Eichenberger, executive director for the Columbia River Treaty review, answers questions during a community meeting held in 2018 in Revelstoke. (Nathan Kunz photo)

Province releases Columbia River Treaty public feedback report

Reservoir levels, fair compensation for impacted communities, among many issues raised

  • Jul. 9, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Welcoming Indigenous voices and regular updates were key general themes that emerged as part of a series of meetings designed to collect public feedback over the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.

The meetings, held in communities across the Columbia Basin region last fall, highlighted resident concerns with the negotiations, which include reduced reservoir fluctuations, fair compensation for impacted communities, more support for the agricultural sector, a local government role in treaty governance and continued work led by Indigenous nations to address ecosystem and salmon reintroduction.

Meetings were held in Nakusp, Fauquier, Revelstoke, Valemount, Cranbrook, Jaffray, Creston, Golden, Invermere, Genelle, Nelson, and Meadow Creek, which included members of the Canadian negotiating team and Indigenous representatives.

The provincial government released a summary report detailing specific concerns and issues raised in each communities throughout the feedback process.

Two years ago, Canada and the United States began discussions over the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, a water-sharing and flood management agreement between the two nations. In April 2019, Indigenous representation from the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx/Okanagan Nations were added to the negotiations as observers.

The Columbia River Treaty, signed in 1964, led to the construction of three dams on the Canadian side and one in the U.S., which provide flood control downstream of the Kootenai River in Montana and Washington.

The three dams on the Canadian side — Keenleyside, Duncan and Mica — account for roughly half of BC Hydro’s power generation, while the treaty allows for significant power generation at U.S. hydroelectric facilities, according to the province.

However, the treaty has been criticized for a lack of consultation with Indigenous communities, as reservoirs flooded out traditional territories and adversely impacted the regional ecosystem, particularly for fish species.

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States pre-paid Canada $64 million for 60 years to provide flood control operations downstream into Montana and Washington, while also paying Canada half of the potential power that could be produced.

Since the renegotiations began, there have been nine rounds of talks between dignitaries that have been hosted in regional communities as well as in Washington D.C. The treaty itself has no end date, however, either nation can unilaterally terminate the agreement after 2024, provided that a decade of advance notice is given.


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