Have your say on Columbia River Treaty

Session in Jaffray next week is a chance for Cranbrook and Kimberley residents to say what matters to them about water management agreement

Why is the East Kootenay important to you? What do you value most about our environment?

These questions and others will be asked next week when Kootenay residents are invited to important workshops about the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

The treaty is a water management agreement between the United States and Canada for the Columbia River and the Kootenay River, which unite in Grand Forks. The agreement covers the construction of dams and storage reservoirs along the course of the rivers, including Koocanusa reservoir. This helps to prevent catastrophic flooding in both Canada and the U.S., and optimizes power generation along the rivers.

Under the treaty, which was signed in 1964, B.C. agreed to build three dams: Duncan, Arrow and Mica. The U.S. built Libby Dam in Montana in 1973, creating Koocanusa reservoir.

Columbia Basin Trust, a Crown corporation, was created in 1995 to support social, economic and environmental well-being in the Columbia River Basin using some of the proceeds of the treaty.

The treaty doesn’t have an end date, but the U.S. and Canada have the chance to terminate the agreement on or after September 16, 2024. Either side has to give at least 10 years’ notice of the termination, meaning that both countries are reviewing the benefits and future options of the treaty ahead of the September 2014 deadline.

Here in B.C., the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas is heading the treaty review.

The team will conduct economic, environmental, social, legal and hydrological analyses in order to make a decision on whether to continue, amend or terminate the Columbia River Treaty.

The review team held the first round of community sessions last June, attended by more than 360 Columbia Basin residents.

The next round of consultation starts in Jaffray next week and the review committee is asking the public to come out and explain what they value about the Columbia Basin environment, so the community can contribute to the future direction of the treaty.

“Our government is committed to hearing from Columbia Basin residents on the future of the Columbia River Treaty,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett. “During the spring sessions, you told us that environmental issues and more economic development opportunities are important to people living in the Basin. This November, we want to hear from you again. Your input will ensure that Basin perspectives, values and interests are considered.”

The workshop in Jaffray will be held on Wednesday, November 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Jaffray Community Hall on Jaffray Village Loop Rd.

There will be another workshop in Creston on Thursday, November 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Creston and District Community Complex, 312 19th Avenue North.

These will be followed by workshops in Revelstoke, Golden, Valemount, Nelson, Trail and Nakusp.

For more information, visit www.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty.