Canada and the United States will begin renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty on May 29.
Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy, who serves as B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development, said she is looking forward to representing the provincial government in the upcoming talks between the federal and American governments.
“The fundamental principle of the Columbia River Treaty must continue to be maximizing benefits for Canada and the U.S., and sharing them equitably,” said Conroy, in a government press release issued Tuesday.
“We want to continue our engagement with Columbia Basin First Nations in B.C., and ensure that local communities are kept informed, as negotiations progress.”
The Columbia River Treaty, which was signed by both countries and ratified in 1964, is a water management agreement. At the time, the U.S. agreed to pay Canada $64 million over 60 years to adjust reservoir levels of 15.5 million acre-feet of water behind Canada’s Duncan, Mica and Hugh Keenleyside dams in order to control American flooding and power generation.
B.C. also currently receives a payment of approximately $250 million worth of electricity each year.
Several issues that weren’t considered when the treaty was initially signed will now be key to the upcoming talks.
U.S. dams that were meant to provide flooding control led to the permanent flooding of land in the West Kootenay and the loss of communities such as Renata.
First Nation interests will also be part of the discussion, with a focus on salmon that were blocked from entering Canada by the Grand Coulee Dam in 1938. Salmon are currently protected in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act.
From the American perspective, a growing agricultural industry and climate change has made irrigation and flood control a priority. The current flood control agreement is due to end in 2024.