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Public info session being held to update Columbia River Treaty talks

Officials to update the state of negotiations and field any public questions and concerns
Reservoir behind Mica Dam, one of dams constructed under terms of the Columbia River Treaty. (Bonneville Power Ad)

Members with the Canadian delegation involved in the Columbia River Treaty negotiations will be participating in a virtual public information session to provide updates on the status of the talks and field any questions from participants.

The online session will be held on Monday, May 16, 2022 from 6-8 p.m. (Pacific Time). It is open to anyone interested in learning more about the state of the negotiations to modernize the decades-old water sharing and power generation agreement with the Columbia River and Kootenay River.

A phone in option will also be available.

Panellists include Sylvain Fabi, Canada’s chief negotiator for the treaty, as well as lead members associated with British Columbia interests in the talks. Leadership from the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations will also be present, and will open the meeting with welcoming remarks.

Barbara Cosens, professor emerita from the University of Idaho, will also talk about the U.S. context of the treaty modernization.

Opening remarks will be delivered by Katrine Conroy, the provincial minister responsible for the treaty, as well as Columbia Basin Indigenous Nations representatives.

Questions can be submitted live, or in advance by May 8, 2022 through BC government’s engagement website.

Another information session is also planned for June 15, which will focus on Indigenous-led ecosystem studies that are being used to inform potential changes to the treaty.

Ratified in 1964, the Columbia River Treaty was a water sharing, downstream flood protection and power generation agreement between Canada and the United States. Under the terms of the deal, three hydroelectric dams were constructed in Canada and one in Montana.

However, at the time, Indigenous first nations in the Columbia Basin region were not consulted as part of the original treaty framework, which remains a source of hurt to this day. The creation of large reservoirs flooded Indigenous communities and adversely impacted cultural and heritage values, as well as agriculture, forestry and tourism sectors.

Flood management and power generation were the two main issues identified in the original discussions, however, as modernization talks have begun, a third priority of ecosystem function has been identified and included in the latest discussions on modernizing the agreement.

Delegations held the 12th round of negotiations during a one-day virtual session in January. Efforts to update the terms of the treaty were confirmed in 2014, after consultation with Indigenous first nations, Basin communities and technical studies, while the United States signaled its intent to proceed with modernization a year prior.

The first round of treaty negotiations were in 2018, with the the federal government announcing the inclusion of Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations as participants in the talks as official observers.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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