MLA Katrine Conroy, the minister responsible for the Columbia Basin Trust, will be one of several speakers at a meeting on March 23. Photo submitted

MLA Katrine Conroy, the minister responsible for the Columbia Basin Trust, will be one of several speakers at a meeting on March 23. Photo submitted

Columbia River Treaty renegotiation on agenda at meeting

Future plans for the Columbia River Treaty will be front and centre at a public meeting.

Future plans for the Columbia River Treaty will be front and centre at a public meeting in Winlaw later this month.

Katrine Conroy, the MLA for Kootenay West and the minister responsible for the CRT, the Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Power Corporation is one of three key speakers at the session on Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m. as part of the Vallican Whole Community Centre’s Whole Perspective series.

The information evening is entitled: “The Columbia River Treaty: What is on the table? What will it mean for us, here?”

Also at the podium will be Corky Evans, the former MLA for Nelson Creston and the founder of the Columbia Basin Trust, and Martin Carver, a hydrologist and conservation planner with over 25 years’ experience in water resources.

Evans currently sits on the board of the Trust, while Carver leads a collaborative of Canadian environmental groups formed with the objective of engaging in transboundary discussions concerning possible renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.

Evans said times have changed and added that he is excited to see the transparency today compared to decades ago when the CBT was formed.

“Good for the Vallican Whole!” he says. “Good for the folks who are organizing this thing! Sixty years ago, the people here were kept in the dark until they lost their land and people’s homes were burnt down to make way for the reservoir. Thanks to a whole bunch of good people we’re talking about it now. This is better for the people, the animals and the fish. It’s as different as night and day. This sort of thing gives us our best chance to have things turn out differently.”

The Treaty has no specified expiration date. Either Canada or the United States can unilaterally terminate the Columbia River Treaty any time after 16 September 2024, provided written notice is filed at least 10 years in advance. In December of last year, the U.S. State Department indicated it was ready to begin negotiations, and Canada is in the process of responding. Both British Columbia and the United States are considering options to determine whether or not to give notice. This ability to terminate the Treaty, and the changing flood control provisions that will occur post-2024 whether the Treaty is terminated or not, have prompted both countries to get the process underway.

Over the last few years, the province has conducted an extensive review process to get input from as many stakeholders as possible, in preparation for sitting down at the table.

The Columbia River Treaty is a trans-boundary 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.

Initially, the U.S. prepaid Canada $64 million for 60 years to provide assured flood control operations which resulted in reduced flood damage and increased safety for U.S. citizens. The U.S. also committed in the Treaty to paying Canada half of the incremental power potential that could be produced because of the new flow regimes made possible by the Treaty coordination. Now everyone wants to take a new look at the arrangements. Both sides hope to cut themselves a better deal, and this time to take many things into consideration that were not initially considered, such as First Nations rights and environmental concerns.

The Vallican Whole is at 3762 Little Slocan S. Road. Admission is by donation. Check out www.VallicanWhole.com or FB/TheWhole