By Darryl Crane/The Golden Star
Representatives from the provincial government’s Columbia River Treaty Review team were in Golden on June 19 to share information and consult with local residents in an attempt to ensure regional interests help shape the future of the Columbia River Treaty.
The 1964 Columbia River Treaty (CRT) became an international agreement between Canada and the United States to co-ordinate flood control and optimize hydro operations. The earliest date either Canada or the United States may renegotiate or terminate the CRT is in 2024 as long as one country provides 10-years advance notice.
With support from Columbia Basin Trust, the team travelled to seven communities between May 29 and June 20 to hear what people have to say about the future of the treaty.
At the meeting in Golden, executive director of the Columbia River Treaty Review Kathy Eichenberger explained the consultations were just the beginning, with plans already in place to return in the fall before making a recommendation to government.
“People are very engaged. They are looking for information to understand what the process is and what are some of the issues,” she said, noting the first phase of meetings had gone very well.
There were frustrations from certain people in attendance about how the treaty was made and the promises they believe were not kept, as the creation of the Kinbasket Reservoir due to the Mica Dam led to the loss of much of the local logging industry.
“When it came time for the questions and the discussions, there were a lot of people who were around when the Mica Dam was created and Kinbasket… and there’s still some hard feelings about what they lost and they haven’t gotten anything in return,” Village of Radium Hot Springs councillor Clara Reinhardt — who attended the meeting — later told The Valley Echo.
“The way it was described to me was they were promised recreation in return, so they have this beautiful big lake, but because there’s no more logging, the logging roads aren’t being maintained… (so) they don’t have access for putting their boats in,” Reinhardt explained. “To get to the only access is three hours north, although pretty soon that road is going to be impassible.”
Town of Golden Councillor Ron Oszust asked questions revolving around the 2009 Kinbasket Reservoir Commercial and Recreation Opportunities Study, a report identifying the significant economic losses the Golden area has suffered as a result of the reservoir that noted the losses would only be partially offset by the potential impacts of tourism-recreation development.
“As a result of ‘our’ reservoir providing 40 per cent of the power for the Province of B.C., we continue to have annual economic losses in our area estimated at $12.4 million… that’s annually,” Oszust said.
He went on to explain why he felt this situation was not being fair to the locals involved.
“This is not acceptable. Investment by the Province is needed so that we may realize key recreational opportunities identified in the study. We need more money for debris clean-up, especially in years of ‘full-pond’ or near full-pond. We need provincial funding to enhance access roads to and along the shoreline, along with improved road maintenance. We need to be able to remove stumps to improve navigational safety. We need upgrades of provincial recreation sites and campgrounds. This would be a start to providing an economic stimulus to our area,” he said.
Eichenberger said she undersood that the residents in the Basin were not consulted around the original signing of the treaty.
“They expect us to do it right this time and we are committed to that,” she said. “Our team is committed that we will demonstrate to the citizens that their voices have been heard.”
Some key issues discussed centred on better operations in dealing with the ecosystem and the effects of reservoir levels. People were also wanting to know about any benefits from the treaty and shared their views on where this financial prosperity should be spent.
As to why a consultation meeting was not planned for Invermere or elsewhere in the Columbia Valley, Reinhardt said she understood the reasoning behind the decision.
“No matter what happened with the treaty, if they move forward with it or they don’t, or they come to different agreements on flood control, who houses the water and who doesn’t, the impact on us here at the wetlands and at the headwaters…. there would be no impact,” she said. “I think the communities they went to are communities where there could be a direct impact depending on which way it goes.”
—With files from Nicole Trigg, The Valley Echo