By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The Columbia River Treaty local governments committee has updated its recommendations regarding the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty.

The committee drew original recommendations back in 2013. These current updates come after four rounds of public consultation in recent years. 

“There are real opportunities to refine the treaty and domestic hydro operations to reduce the negative impacts on our quality of life in the basin,” said committee chair Linda Worley. ‘We thank basin residents for continuing to advocate for improvements and the Columbia River Treaty negotiating team and Minister (of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations Katherine) Conroy for the phenomenal engagement opportunities, for hearing our concerns and doing their utmost to rectify these impacts.”

The committee wrote in a press release that adding ecosystem function as a third and equal priority in the treaty, alongside flood risk management and hydro power generation (the two priorities of the original treaty), is a continuing interest and priority for many basin residents “so there is relief in knowing this is one of the main points of discussion during the negotiations.” 

“That came up through consultation in the past few years, that ecosystem function is something that is important and needs to be included,” Worley told the Pioneer. 

Worley added that when the Columbia River Treaty was first signed in 1961, the focus was on power and flood control and not much consideration was given to the socio-economic impact or environmental impact to the basin and its inhabitants.

“So much has come to light since the treaty was signed,” said Worley, adding some of these impacts coming to light have been positive, but quite a few have been negative. “These have to been taken into consideration in the modernized treaty.”

Other revisions outlined in the press release include a detailed description of the impacts from the treaty, additional recommendations related to the treaty on less fluctuation in reservoir levels and “a broader governance structure that includes Indigenous Nations at a government to government level with the federal and provincial governments, as well as Indigenous and western science expertise in ecosystem management, local governments and basin residents.”

The committee has provided its recommendations to the federal government, the B.C. government, the Ktunaxa Nation, the Syilx-Okanagan Nation and the Secwepemc Nation.

“We encourage basin residents and local governments to get educated about the treaty and stay informed about the ongoing negotiations to be ready to provide input when invited,” said Worley in the press release. “We assure the negotiating team that the committee and basin residents will be looking for significant changes in the treaty that improve our quality of life compared to current operations.”

The committee was created in 2011 in order to assist local governments and region residents to engage in decisions around the future of the treaty. 

“We have a good and strong working relationship with the province and with Canada on modernizing the treaty,” Worley told the Pioneer.