The Columbia River shoreline in Trail. (Jessee Regnier photo)

The Columbia River shoreline in Trail. (Jessee Regnier photo)

As Columbia River Treaty negotiators get serious, Basin residents must speak up

Message from the Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative

On June 29 and 30, Canada and the United States met for the tenth round of Columbia River Treaty renegotiations. The negotiations were held by web-conference due to COVID-19. Unlike previous rounds, negotiators actually started debating specific proposals.

According to press releases issued by both sides, Canada responded to an initial proposal from the U.S. and presented a counter-proposal.

This is big news.

The week before, in fulfillment of a pledge made to continue to engage with Basin residents around their issues and concerns, the B.C. Treaty Team released its latest report on local interests and the status of negotiations: a remarkably forthcoming document for a process conducted almost entirely behind closed doors.

The Province also committed to engage Indigenous nations, local governments, and citizens on final decisions about the treaty once options become clear. But as negotiations with the U.S. proceed, options will be whittled down toward a narrow consensus.

That’s why it’s crucial for negotiators to hear from the public now.

Our group, the Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative (UCBEC), is participating in an Indigenous-led research process investigating how a modernized treaty could improve the health of Canadian ecosystems.

This spring, we released a discussion paper and summary on this topic—and we welcome public comment. The Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee has provided similar recommendations.

The new Columbia River Treaty must include ecosystem function as a third primary purpose, equal to the existing purposes of international flood-risk management and hydro power. This means adjusting dam operations to help restore land now periodically inundated by reservoirs and improve conditions for fish and other aquatic species in downstream river reaches.

In general, reservoir operations should mimic natural systems as much as possible. We also need to have more flexibility in Canada to adapt to climate change.

We can make these changes while still generating plenty of power and protecting communities from floods. To support this new mandate, Treaty governance must be reformed with biologists working alongside engineers, better international collaboration, and Indigenous nations central in decision-making. The public must have a strong voice.

More of the ongoing treaty revenue paid by the U.S. should be dedicated to relevant Basin needs.

Many people mistakenly believe the Columbia Basin Trust is funded by the treaty. In fact, it was created with a one-time $376-million payment from the Province, representing well under 10% of B.C. revenue to date.

A new agreement should provide new funds for (1) adaptive ecosystem research, restoration, and management, (2) salmon reintroduction, (3) watershed education for youth and the public, and (4) local food security.

The renegotiation of the treaty is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a just, ecologically prosperous, and economically sustainable future for the Basin.

UCBEC applauds the Canadian negotiating team, which includes the federal and provincial governments and the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Syilx Okanagan nations, for breaking away from the treaty’s dark history.

Nothing since colonization has had a more destructive impact on the Upper Columbia Basin than the treaty. Four large dams (Hugh Keenleyside, Duncan, and Mica in Canada and Libby in the U.S.) were built through the treaty, which together inundated around 1200 square kilometres of ecologically- and agriculturally-rich land, flooding over a dozen communities.

To this day, Canadian treaty dams are partially operated to meet treaty requirements that serve downstream American interests. In 1964, the federal government signed the treaty without consulting with Indigenous nations or Basin residents.

BC Hydro and the Province enforced the removal of condemned communities with what many people felt was inadequate compensation and little to no empathy.

Thankfully, we’re living in a different time.

We can speak directly to negotiators and ask them to make sure ecosystem function becomes the third treaty purpose so that river flows will be shaped to also benefit ecosystems and their diverse plant and animal communities.

Send a comment to negotiators today by email (columbiarivertreaty@gov.bc.ca), Facebook (@ColumbiaRiverTreaty), or Twitter (@CRTreaty). And when the Province holds its next round of formal public engagement, we all need to show up.

We are fortunate to have government officials in charge who truly want to listen.

Let’s seize the opportunity.

About the UCBEC:

The Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative is a collaboration of a cross-section of environmental voices from the Upper Columbia Basin representing provincial, regional and local environmental groups.

Current members include the Sierra Club of British Columbia, BC Nature, Wildsight, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society, and the North Columbia Environment Society.

Columbia Basin

Just Posted

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Author John Vaillant joins Lisa Moore and Fred Wah for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Alumni Reading on Friday, July 9. All three authors were featured at the inaugural festival in 2012. Photo: Submitted
FESTIVAL TALES: When 2012 meets 2021

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival will include authors from the event’s inaugural year

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read