Gearing up for river treaty consultations

Life is a river. So says the Tao of Pooh — the 1982 book on Taoism, an Eastern belief — so says the Columbia River running through Trail.

Life is a river.

So says the Tao of Pooh — the 1982 book on Taoism, an Eastern belief — so says the Columbia River running through Trail.

That life and the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) that abounds it as it relates to the U.S., hydroelectricity, and flood management will be revisited this Wednesday in Castlegar at Selkirk College.

The Columbia Basin Trust is hosting an open house on the treaty, while the province will be conducting itsconsultation surrounding the elements of the document, on something that should be near and dear to the hearts of Trail residents since they live on the banks of the river, said Kindy Gosal, CBT director of water and enviroment.

Trail does get significant flood control benefits from the treaty, he noted.

“I think we do forget about the treaty because it has been there so long and it has operated so well,” he said about the document, signed in 1964. “Its original tenet was for hydro power and flood control, but what we see now are many different values coming up and the water systems being used for many different things like recreation, fishing.”

In the first round of 15 educational open houses conducted in the Columbia River Basin last year, people asked for more information on several topics, including: the benefits and negative impacts of the current CRT; issues related to compensation; the feasibility of bringing salmon back to the upper Columbia River; climate change and how it may influence the CRT in the future; and scenarios for the future of the CRT.

They also want to learn more about how the current CRT operated, including flood control and downstream power benefits, as well as roles and responsibilities of key players, including the federal and provincial governments.

When it was created, the idea of the treaty was an obligation for Canada to create storage reservoirs to store water for purposes of flood control and electrical generation, and release those waters to optimize those two benefits.

Under the treaty, there was a review option built in for either the Canada or U.S. side for 2024, meaning either side could terminate any provisions of the treaty, but they have to give 10 years notice (in 2014).

“Really, this is an opportunity to re-think how we manage these waters and what we manage them for,” said Gosal. “Now we are looking at the treaty that was ratified in 1964 and seeing if it is relevant in today’s context.”

Attend an open house (3-7 p.m.), a discussion with experts (5-6:30 p.m.) and a free dinner (6:30-7 p.m.). This open house will be followed by a consultation workshop (7-9 p.m.) led by the Province of BC.

“This really is the Province of B.C, that will make any decisions on the future of the treaty,” Gosal said.

The province’s representatives will be present in the evening.