The water safety line at Gyro Park in Trail is pretty much beached this week as river levels reached an unusually low point for this time of year. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Columbia River levels low in Trail

“This is related to the extremely dry summer we experienced,” says BC Hydro’s Jennifer Walker-Larsen

Columbia River levels are much lower than usual for this time of year.

“This is related to the extremely dry summer we experienced,” says Jennifer Walker-Larsen from BC Hydro. “Columbia River flows at Birchank downstream of the Kootenay River confluence are lower than usual for this time of year.”

Columbia River levels at Birchbank are the combination of discharge flows from Hugh L. Keenleyside dam and flows from the Kootenay River.

Walker-Larsen added, “Both have been lower than normal for this time of year.”

Kootenay flows were reduced over the past month to save water to ensure fish protection flows downstream of Brilliant dam can be maintained for longer periods.

“Discharge flows from Hugh Keenleyside dam, dictated by the Columbia River Treaty, have also been lower than usual,” noted Walker-Larsen.

Pending agreement with the U.S. under the terms of the Columbia River Treaty, river levels could increase by up to 2.6 feet as early as this weekend.

The Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is a trans-boundary agreement signed between Canada and the U.S. in 1961, and ratified in 1964 to develop and operate dams in the upper Columbia River basin for power and flood control benefits to both countries.

The treaty has no end date, but includes an option for either country to terminate most treaty provisions anytime after 60 years or Sept. 16 2024, given at least 10 years advance notice.

In March 2014, following First Nations consultation and community engagement throughout the Basin, and after conducting a number of technical studies, the Government of British Columbia announced it would like to continue the Columbia River Treaty but seek improvements within the existing framework. This decision was supported by the Federal Government of Canada.

In December 2013 the U.S. Entity delivered its final recommendations to the U.S. Department of State. In the fall of 2016, the U.S. Department of State completed its review of the final recommendations and decided to proceed with negotiations to modernize the Treaty.

The province and federal government have been working in consultation with First Nations and local governments to prepare for potential future negotiations with the United States. There are no formal negotiations scheduled as of yet.

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy is minister responsible for Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation and the Columbia River Treaty.

In mid-October she updated the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary with confirmation that Sylvan Fabi has been named the Canadian Negotiator for the treaty talks.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department announced Jill Smail as the new Columbia River Treaty negotiator, replacing Bryan Doherty.

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