The Libby Dam in Montana

The Libby Dam in Montana

Regional treaty celebrates 50th anniversary

The Columbia River Treaty celebrates it's 50th anniversary today, Tuesday, Sept. 16.

  • Sep. 16, 2014 8:00 p.m.

The Columbia River Treaty celebrates it’s 50th anniversary today, Tuesday, Sept. 16.

It’s an important milestone based on the benefits to both the Canadian and U.S. governments since its creation and is also notable because its the first date that the two sides can terminate or amend the agreement.

Three dams and reservoirs were created as part of the treaty, including the Mica Dam north of Revelstoke, Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar and the Libby Dam, which created Lake Koocanusa near Cranbrook.

The treaty also bore the creation of the Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Power Corporation in 1995 after pressure from citizens and local governments. CPC builds and invests in three power projects, sharing the income with the Trust, which in turn, uses it’s portion to enhance social economic and environmental well-being of the Columbia Basin.

“The impacts and benefits from the Treaty are different in each community in the Basin, so we are encouraging each to choose the appropriate ways to recognize, remember and reflect on this important anniversary in their own way,” said Deb Kozak, Chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee. “We also encourage Basin residents to take a few minutes out of their day to recognize this historic date.”

The committee works with the provincial government, First Nations, hydroelectric facility operators, and the Columbia Basin Trust to reduce the impacts of the treaty and manage the benefits for the Basin region. Currently, the committee is working on the creation of a new Columbia Basin Advisory Committee that will be tasked with soliciting Treaty feedback and input on hydro operations.

“Although there have been benefits, it is important to remember the impact the Treaty has had on the affected areas, and that it continues to impact our communities today,” reminds Karen Hamling, Mayor of the Village of Nakusp and Vice-Chair of the Committee.

Tuesday (Sept. 16, 2014) will be an important day because it is the first date that either side can apply to unilaterally provide notice to amend or terminate the CRT after 60 years. The treaty has no termination date, but either the U.S. or Canada must provide 10 years notice.

A local governments committee submitted a report to the provincial and federal governments in December 2013, outlining domestic issues and opportunities regarding the future of the Treaty.

A few months later, the B.C. government decided to seek improvements based on a set of 13 principles, which include issues such as flood control and management, ecosystem values, and improved coordination between Canadian and American officials regarding the Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa operations.

The U.S. State department has received a similar report from American officials and discussions between the B.C., Canadian and U.S. governments are anticipated in 2015.