The year 2014 is just around the corner for some locals who reflect on the region’s future flood control and generation of hydroelectric power.
An education session on the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) Thursday left about 100 Greater Trail residents prepared for discussions to come with the province and others flooded with new information.
The Columbia Basin Trust held the meeting to educate residents on the international agreement between Canada and the United States – to coordinate flood control and optimize hydroelectric power – that could potentially be up for renegotiation or termination.
Under the 1964 treaty, three dams were constructed in Canada – the Mica, Duncan and Hugh Keenleyside dams – and a fourth, Libby, was constructed in Montana.
The CRT has no official expiry date but has a minimum length of 60 years, which is met in September 2024, and either Canada (the B.C. government) or the United States can terminate many of the provisions of the agreement effective any time after that as long as written notice is filed at least 10 years in advance.
“If we don’t have downstream benefits, we have more control over how we operate on our part of the system for both flood control and power but it’s not clear that that would be enough to offset the loss of downstream benefits from our point of view,” said economist Ken Peterson, who formerly consulted the province but now sits on the Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) water advisory committee.
“It’s a bit murky and a lot of good minds have been put onto trying to model a number of different scenarios and I don’t think anybody has a clear picture . . . which is why I continue to believe that we’ll probably just agree to muddle through for a lot longer than 2024.”
Peterson was joined by other water advisory board members – Josh Smienk, founding chair of the CBT; Marvin Wodlinsky, formerly involved in Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Kim Deane, former energy manager for Teck – to address round table discussions from the crowd.
Scott Barillaro from the Ministry of Energy and Mines was also on hand to bring participants up to speed on the province’s work to date.
“Over the last few years, we’ve pushed really hard with our political decision makers to educate them about the treaty and its importance,” said Barillaro.
With some funding secured, he said a team has formed and the province plans on tackling its community consultations next spring.
Beyond acting as an information session, CBT presenters also touched on its priority to learn about the past and think about the future with clips from voices from the Basin. Interviews from residents who were displaced during the creation of the three dams were shared to acknowledge what occurred in the past prior to consultation.
Many participating in the meeting at the Riverbelle wanted to uncover basics like which country benefits the most from the agreement but others touched on specifics like what is the value of the Kootenay diversion to Canada in power generation (approximately $40 million).
The input collected through comment cards and “speakers corner” video clips will eventually be made available on CBT’s website.
Online information sessions (www.cbt.org/crt) will be held at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Nov. 23 for those who couldn’t make Thursday’s meeting.
For more information on the CRT, visit http://www.cbt.org/crt/