This time, Local Governments talk to Feds on future of Columbia River Treaty
Local government representatives Mayor Deb Kozak and Mayor Karen Hamling met with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, federal officials and regional MPs in late November to emphasize the importance of working with local governments in the Columbia Basin before reaching decisions about the future of the Columbia River Treaty (CRT).
The meeting with federal staff included nine representatives from Global Affairs Canada, the agency with the lead role in international treaties, as well as from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Key messages to the federal government included ensuring a voice for Basin residents in future Treaty discussions, reducing impacts from Treaty-related dams, enhancing ecosystem function through Treaty operations, and equitable sharing of any benefits flowing from the Treaty. Commitments were made with these federal contacts to continue to exchange information on behalf of the people of the Basin.
“Basin residents and First Nations weren’t consulted before the Treaty was signed in the 1960s. We’ve worked closely with the Provincial CRT Review Team for over five years to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future. We were relieved to hear the federal representatives state that ‘there is no light between the federal and provincial interests in the Treaty’, which we have heard from the Provincial Review Team as well,” says Deb Kozak, Chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee and Mayor of Nelson.
The Columbia River Treaty is a trans-boundary water management agreement that was ratified in 1964 by the United States and Canada to optimize flood management and power generation in both counties. Close agreement between the BC and Canadian governments is essential because, although international treaties are the responsibility of the federal government, natural resource management including water management is the jurisdiction of the province. In the case of the CRT, the Canada-British Columbia Agreement (1963) transferred most CRT benefits, rights and obligations to British Columbia, requiring Canada to obtain B.C.’s agreement before amending or terminating the Treaty.
“Everyone we met with was very interested, attentive and appreciative of the opportunity to speak directly with us about the initial and ongoing impacts and benefits that people in the Basin experience from the dam and reservoir operations that are authorized by the Treaty,” adds Karen Hamling, Vice-Chair of the Committee.
This article was contributed by the Association of Kootenay-Boundary Local Governments.