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OPINION: Arrow Lakes impacts high of thoughts in Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Kathy Eichenberger

As British Columbia’s lead in negotiations with america to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, I want to touch upon the troublesome circumstances within the Arrow Lakes Reservoir this yr.

My perspective comes from having lived within the West Kootenay for 10 years, assuming a number of provincial environmental roles within the area and, for the previous 12 years, as government director of the Provincial Columbia River Treaty workforce, working to create a contemporary treaty that higher displays the wants and pursuits of the B.C. Columbia Basin.

For the previous 5 years, the Canadian negotiating workforce, which incorporates representatives of B.C., World Affairs Canada, the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations, Surroundings and Local weather Change Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has been assembly with the U.S. delegation to considerably enhance on the present Columbia River Treaty that was established 60 years in the past. It’s behind the instances and in want of renewal. It’s price noting that these cross-border discussions are non-partisan, and there aren’t any elected officers on the negotiating desk.

The Canadian negotiation delegation is aware of the low water ranges on Arrow Lakes Reservoir this yr and the devastating influence that is having on communities, wildlife habitat, fish populations, tourism and recreation. I’ve spent a lot time round this stunning space and may recognize how exhausting it’s for residents to expertise this devastation. We’ve got seen pictures and browse private accounts of stranded and lifeless fish, uncovered particles, drawn-down seashores, marooned boats and extra, and we’ve got shared this with our U.S. counterparts so they could have a clearer understanding of our positions.

I do know individuals have heard that there are two most important components affecting water ranges this summer season. One is the shortage of snowmelt and rain because of drought circumstances since final fall that has considerably lowered the quantity of water flowing into Arrow Lakes Reservoir. The second is that the Columbia River Treaty requires B.C. to supply a sure quantity of water to america at particular instances of the yr for flood-risk administration functions and downstream hydropower technology. This final requirement being the issue that contributed to the extreme drafting (water shifting out of the reservoir) this summer season. That is all of the extra painful after we observe excessive water ranges simply throughout the border.

Whereas we are able to’t management the climate or cease the drought, we’re strongly advocating for enhancements within the treaty to scale back most of these impacts sooner or later.

Those that have been following this course of will know {that a} key objective for the Canadian negotiating workforce is to realize extra flexibility for a way B.C. could unilaterally function its treaty dams (the Hugh L. Keenleyside, Duncan and Mica dams). This could enable us to regulate operations to help ecosystems, Indigenous cultural values, and socio-economic pursuits, reminiscent of recreation and tourism. There may be vital analysis and river administration situation modelling underway, led by the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations and together with native governments, that’s informing how greatest to make use of our new flexibility. A part of that analysis contains taking a look at minimal elevations, notably throughout the summer season months, on Arrow Lakes Reservoir.

Sadly, this gained’t change the state of affairs this yr. Till a modernized Columbia River Treaty is in place, we should proceed to satisfy our authorized treaty necessities.

My provincial treaty workforce and I’ve been collaborating with the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations and talking with native governments and residents within the basin since 2012 to be taught what adjustments individuals need to see. These discussions in Nakusp, Fauquier, Burton, Castlegar, Path, Revelstoke and different areas round Arrow Lakes have emphasised how the present Columbia River Treaty impacts seashore and boating entry, tourism draw, companies and the area’s important ecosystems. All of the enter we’ve got obtained (and proceed to obtain) is guiding our efforts to make sure a modernized treaty really displays what we’ve got heard. Earlier than any settlement is finalized, we are going to come again to the individuals of the basin once more to clarify what’s being proposed and search suggestions.

I perceive how irritating it’s to know issues can’t change instantly, however I need to make it clear that the Canadian negotiating workforce is doing every part it could actually to make sure a modernized treaty higher helps the individuals, communities and ecosystems of the basin and mitigates conditions just like the one we’re seeing at Arrow Lakes Reservoir sooner or later.

There may be rather more info out there concerning the Columbia River Treaty and our work on the Province of B.C. Columbia River Treaty web site at https://interact.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty

My workforce and I encourage you to ship us any questions or feedback by emailing us at columbiarivertreaty@gov.bc.ca.

Kathy Eichenberger is Govt director, Columbia River Treaty, and B.C. lead, Canadian Negotiation Delegation


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