Reservoir behind Mica Dam, one of dams constructed under terms of the Columbia River Treaty. (Bonneville Power Ad)

Reservoir behind Mica Dam, one of dams constructed under terms of the Columbia River Treaty. (Bonneville Power Ad)

Latest round of talks conclude over Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Another round of Columbia River Treaty talks has concluded between Canada and the United States, as efforts continue to modernize a decades-old water sharing agreement between the two countries.

The negotiations, which have been ongoing over the last four years, focuses on flood management and power generation on river systems in the Columbia Basin, namely with the operation of three dams in B.C. and one in Montana that were built under the terms of the original agreement ratified in 1964.

Both sides met for the 13th round of negotiations in Richmond last week to review proposals developed by each side, according to an update from Katrine Conroy, the provincial minister tasked with overseeing B.C.’s interests in the treaty renegotiation.

“The aim of each proposal is to find agreement on an updated treaty framework that includes not only flood-risk management and hydropower co-ordination, but also co-operation on ecosystems and increased flexibility for Canadian operations,” said Conroy, in a statement. “The additional flexibility would enable Canada to meet domestic objectives, including for Indigenous cultural values and socio-economic interests.

“This latest round of negotiations builds on the work done in a series of meetings between Canada and the U.S. earlier this year.”

The U.S. State Department also issued a brief statement acknowledging the latest round of talks.

“The United States is committed to working with Canada to achieve a modernized treaty regime that will support a healthy and prosperous Columbia River Basin and reflect our country’s commitment to the people who depend upon the Columbia River.”

The Canadian delegation includes Indigenous inclusion from the Ktunaxa, Syilx/Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations, which are leading environmental studies and advocating for the inclusion of ecosystem values and function as part of updated terms in a modernized treaty.

The original treaty facilitated the construction of three dams in British Columbia — Duncan, Hugh L. Keenleyside and Mica — while the Libby Dam was built in Montana, creating reservoirs that flooded approximately 110,000 hectares of land on the Canadian side of the border.

The inundation of the land affected thousands of residents and adversely impacted Indigenous cultural sites, values and ecosystems, along with agriculture, tourism and forestry sectors.

The treaty has been historically criticized for a lack of consultation with Columbia Basin Indigenous nations.

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