Local gov’ts support residents in Columbia River Treaty review

Local governments have had their say on the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

Local governments have had their say on the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

Last week, local governments in B.C.’s Columbia Basin formally submitted recommendations for the treaty, which is up for renewal and termination in 2024.

The Columbia River Treaty is a water management agreement between the United States and Canada signed in 1961 and ratified in 1964. The Treaty optimizes flood management and power generation, requiring coordinated operations of reservoirs and water flows for the Columbia River and Kootenay River on both sides of the border.

Both B.C. and the U.S are in the process of developing recommendations on the future of the Treaty because 2014 is the earliest opportunity that either country can give notice to terminate substantial portions of the Treaty, which would take effect in 10 years.

Public hearings held jointly by local governments and the B.C. government in November brought 235 Basin residents, and another 100 provided input in writing on the future of the treaty.

“Basin residents were clear about their issues and concerns related to the future of the Columbia River Treaty and we’ve worked together to find practical solutions that address a range of Treaty-related issues from salmon restoration, to increasing input from Basin residents in dam operations,” said Deb Kozak, Chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee. “Our recommendations are with government now and we expect that they will be incorporated into any decisions about the future of the Treaty.”

There were several key concerns that local government heard from the public, Kozak continued.

“Residents want local government and First Nations’ input into any future discussions about the Treaty. And they want the Provincial Treaty Review Team to continue assessing alternative scenarios for Treaty dams and reservoirs that would improve ecosystem function and other values. Residents in BC especially want to understand what it would mean for this region if the Columbia River was managed to meet the U.S. request for increased Columbia River flows in spring and summer.”

The local government committee has put forward 12 recommendations directly related to the Treaty, and five recommendations to address domestic Treaty-related issues.

The Committee’s recommendations address the following international Treaty issues:

• local government status in international discussions;

• continued engagement with Basin residents;

• assessing benefits and impacts;

• reducing negative impacts to the Basin;

• equitable benefit-sharing;

• expanding the focus of the Treaty to include ecosystems and other interests;

• flood risk management;

• Canadian input to Libby Dam operations;

• power generation;

• continuing Treaty rights to water use in BC;

• integrating climate change; and

• pursuing salmon restoration.

Recommendations regarding regional or so-called domestic issues address:

• mitigation and/or compensation for negative impacts in the BC portion of the Basin;

• community economic development;

• meaningful ongoing engagement of Basin residents;

• restoration and conservation of fish and wildlife in the East Kootenay-Koocanusa;

• a water management process for the Kootenay River;

• full implementation of the Columbia River and Duncan Dam Water Use Plans; and

• the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

The Committee’s recommendations are available at www.akblg.ca/content/columbia-river-treaty.