Committee engaging public on Columbia River Basin

"The people who live within the Columbia River Basin are best situated to shape its future."

  • Dec. 23, 2014 10:00 a.m.

For the Townsman

VICTORIA — The Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee provides a First Nation and community voice that will help inform hydroelectric operations planning in the Columbia Basin and potential future improvements to the Columbia River Treaty.

The committee builds on a longstanding tradition of community involvement in activities that affect the Columbia River Basin, and grew out of the extensive, two-year public and First Nations consultation that informed British Columbia’s decision to continue the Columbia River Treaty and seek improvements within its existing framework.

“The people who live within the Columbia River Basin are best situated to shape its future,” said Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East and Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Core Review.

“The Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee will give basin residents, communities and First Nations, government  and power utilities another forum to share ideas as we continue to engage on hydroelectric operations on the river and negotiations on the Columbia River Treaty.”

The basin residents that took part in the Columbia River Treaty Review public engagement activities expressed an interest in improved understanding and information sharing with respect to Columbia Basin hydroelectric operations, and continued engagement of First Nations and communities throughout any future Columbia River Treaty negotiations.

The Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Energy and Mines worked together to address these interests by establishing the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee in the summer of 2014.

“The Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee is only successful because we have BC Hydro and the Ministry of Energy and Mines at the table, and every committee member is volunteering their time,” said Karen Hamling, mayor of Nakusp and vice-chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee  This all means a lot.”

The 37 members of the committee represent a broad range of interests, groups and geographical areas within the basin including municipalities and regional districts, First Nations, basin businesses, environmental, agricultural, recreational, and community organizations, and the

Columbia Basin Trust, BC Hydro, Columbia Power Corporation, FortisBC, the federal government and the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The committee will provide a forum for dialogue among participants and inform hydroelectric operations in the Columbia Basin and potential improvements to the Columbia River Treaty. A key role of committee members is also to engage members of their respective communities — seeking their input and disseminating information to improve collective understanding.

The committee’s first meeting in September 2014 included a presentation on hydro operations in the basin, a discussion on how to raise awareness and understanding of hydro operations, and an update on the Columbia River Treaty Review. Feedback from participants was highly positive.

A webinar on Dec. 15, 2014 covered a presentation and lively discussion of the range of impacts and benefits of the Columbia River Treaty on Basin communities, the region and province.

With such a promising start, the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee can expect to be highly engaged in 2015.

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