The town of Renata in 1965, since flooded by the Keenleyside Dam as a result of the Columbia River Treaty. Photo: Arrow Lakes Historical Society

U.S. payment to Canada a focus at Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Next session is in Portland in October

The second session of Columbia Basin Treaty negotiations took place around a table in Nelson on Wednesday and Thursday — two days in what is sure to be a multi-year process.

Katrine Conroy, the provincial minister responsible for the treaty and the MLA for Kootenay West, thinks the Nelson location was significant.

“One of the things I know was discussed in the last couple of days,” she told the Nelson Star, “is the need for both sides to carefully consider the views of the people who live and work in the Columbia Basin on both sides, so it is important for them to travel through the basin and have an understanding.”

There are three parties at the table: the governments of Canada, the U.S. and B.C. With negotiators, their staff, hydro company representatives and lawyers, that amounts to about 25 people, Conroy said.

Despite the federal government’s decision that First Nations will not be at the table, she said, the province is continuing to consult them.

The agreement, reached in 1964, governed the mutual sharing of, and payments for, the trans-boundary Columbia River water for flood control in the United States and hydro power in both countries. But in 2018 there are many other issues, and re-negotiating the treaty will be a complex matter.

Conroy can’t talk about what was discussed in Nelson because those negotiation details are confidential, but she said the session dealt in general concepts and information and will get down to details in later sessions.

“They reviewed hydro power planning in both Canada and U.S. operations and they also talked about the ecosystems, and stressed how important it is that the ecosystems are part of the discussion, as they obviously were not in the 1960s when the treaty was signed.”

Much of the negotiation will be about the value of what is known as the Canadian Entitlement, which means that every year the U.S. pays Canada half of the value of power generated by flows from Canada, currently about $120 million worth of power annually.

That number is dropping, Conroy says, because the U.S. is using more of the water for flood control, agriculture, fisheries and transporting goods.

But the impacts of the treaty on B.C. tourism, agriculture and control of lake levels have not diminished in B.C.

READ MORE:Columbia River Treaty: What’s on the table?

“The negative impacts have continued. The levels of the Arrow Lakes, there is so much fluctuation that it is tough for tourism, tough in the summer when the lake level drops and it is nice to have a sandy beach but if you have an enormous dusty sand bar, that does not bode well for recreation and tourism. Nakusp has struggled with that for years.”

She said riparian zones are destroyed each year as the lake goes up and down, and there are issues of loss of wildlife, and of agriculture.

“We had, in the Upper Arrow Lakes, at Deer Park and Renata, places like that, the most vibrant agricultural areas in the province next to the Fraser Valley. That was all flooded.”

COLUMN: The Columbia River Treaty: Dialogue through difference begins

COLUMN: Americans learn about local Columbia River Treaty story

It’s important to Conroy that American politicians, power company officials and negotiators understand these things. So in July she hosted 50 of them for a bus trip around the West Kootenay where she set up opportunities for them to talk to local people affected by the dams.

Then she invited them all to dinner, with local people, at her farm in Pass Creek.

“It was good for them to come and see it all, and a number of them said, ‘Thank you, we needed to do that, it opened our eyes.’”



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pick all your apples and save the bears

As summer ends, bears become more active looking for food

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. Premier announces fall election

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka reacts to election announcement

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read