River treaty refresher for locals

Agreement between nations is examined in Community Complex session

Castlegar residents learned about the Columbia River Treaty at an open house Oct. 20 at the Community Complex.

Castlegar residents learned about the Columbia River Treaty at an open house Oct. 20 at the Community Complex.

Castlegar residents had the opportunity to learn all about the Columbia River Treaty at an open house information session on Oct. 19 at the Castlegar Community Complex. The session was presented by Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and was part of a series of sessions the CBT has put on throughout the basin area.

Kindy Gosal, director of water and environment for CBT, made a couple of video presentations that explained what the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is and how it has affected the region.

“The objective of the workshop was to provide the public with  information on the treaty: what it is and how it works and what some of the considerations are for the future,” said Gosal. “We provided the residents of Castlegar with some information on the structure of the treaty.”

The treaty is an international agreement between Canada and the United States to coordinate flood control and optimize hydroelectric energy production on both sides of the border.

“The treaty is an evergreen agreement – it doesn’t have an expiry date,” said Gosal. “There are built-in opportunities for changing the treaty.”

Four dams were built as a result of the treaty: Keenleyside, Mica (near Golden), Duncan (North of Kootenay Lake) in B.C. and Libby in Montana. The earliest date for either side to unilaterally terminate or renegotiate the CRT is 2024; ten years advance notice must be given.

“It’s not that any changes have to be made – but 2014 is the earliest date that changes can be made,” said Gosal. “A lot of time and serious effort is being put into looking at the options, but no decisions have been made by either side yet. And that is why we wanted to let citizens understand what is being looked at and what is the framework for the potential changes, and get people up to speed. It’s a pretty complicated issue and that was our first attempt at giving people the information they need.”

The open house, which was attended by nearly 100 residents, also included a group session where attendees were encouraged to talk amongst themselves about the various issues surrounding the CRT.