The Local Governments’ Committee has released a draft of the recommendations they will be making to the province in the late fall regarding the future of the Columbia River Treaty (CRT).

“The Local Governments’ Committee has heard clearly from Basin residents about the concerns and issues regarding the Columbia River Treaty,” sates Deb Kozak, Chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee in a letter to the Regional Districts in the Columbia Basin and the Village of Valemount Council. “We have sought advice from the Columbia Basin Trust’s Water Initiatives Advisory Panel of experts and others to identify the best solutions to these issues.”

The draft report lists a number of priorities that the Province, Federal government, and BC Hydro (as the Canadian Entity for the CRT) must address in discussions and decisions with the US, regardless of which CRT option is considered. In no particular order, they are:

– Local Government Status in International Discussions

– No Further Negative Impacts to the Basin

– Continued Engagement with Basin residents

– Protect Columbia Basin Trust and its Power Assets

– Continued Access to Water

– Continue the Sharing of Downstream Benefits

– Account for Additional Benefit Sharing

– Fair Share of New/Improved Benefits to the Basin

– Coordinated Flood Management

– Expand the Focus of the CRT

– Integrate Climate Change

– Canadian Input to Libby Dam Operations

– Involvement in U.S. Requests for Changes in Flows

– Pursue Salmon Restoration

Kozak’s letter also states that negotiations between Canada and the US are likely to continue for several years to address the issues that have been raised in the review of the Treaty, and that it will also take at least a year for BC Hydro and the provincial government to respond to the committee’s recommendations about ongoing domestic issues such as implementation of Water Use Plans, mechanisms for increased involvement of local government and residents in decisions, restoring local agriculture, and improving economic development of communities.

Andru McCracken, who is mayor of Valemount and also sits on the Local Governments’ Committee says that our community has had specific impact on this document. He says that the process has brought into clear focus that Valemount has been hit in a way that other areas in the basin were not, but that an international treaty negotiation is not the venue to deal with that.

“This is not a chance for a money grab from Valemount because we’ve been impacted more.” McCracken believes that the LGC has heard from the residents of the Valemount on the impacts felt here, and that has helped inform the recommendations they will be presenting to cabinet. He feels that presenting them as a cohesive group is the best way for the province to negotiate on behalf of our interests, “and we want to have a strong negotiation, we don’t want to sell anything out.” If people have feedback they can get in touch with McCracken, and he speaks with pride about the work the local group of interested residents has done.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to maintain, continue and increase our understanding of how the treaty works,” McCracken continues. “We are part of this big system, we are part of this international relationship, and so it’s really good for local people to know what is going on, not like the bad old days.”

By: Korie Marshall