Representatives from the Province of British Columbia 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 the earliest date either Canada or the United States may terminate the CRT is in 2024 as long as one country provides 10-years advance notice. It’s possible either country may wish to renegotiate parts or all of the CRT, or terminate it entirely.
With the support from Columbia Basin Trust the group had been travelling to many communities to hear what people have to say about the future of the treaty. Town of Golden Mayor Christina Benty was on hand at the meetings and thanked the Columbia Basin Trust for helping organize the meeting at the Golden Civic Centre.
One of the leaders at the phase one set of consultations was Kathy Eichenberger, Executive Director of the Columbia River Treaty Review.
Eichenberger stressed these consultations are just the beginning, with plans already in place to return in the fall and update residents.
“After we have looked at all of the interests and we have done at a number of studies to see how future potential decisions will impact those interests we will come back,” Eichenberger said.
She said it is important to come back and explain to Basin residents how their concerns have been considered before making a recommendation to government.
Eichenberger said the first phase of meetings have been going very well.
“People are very engaged. They are looking for information to understand what the process is and what are some of the issues,” Eichenberger said.
During the Golden meeting there were frustrations from certain people in attendance about how the agreement was made and promises they believe were not kept.
“We do understand and have heard it loud and clear 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,” Eichenberger said.
Town of Golden Coun. Ron Oszust asked multiple questions to the representatives during the meeting. Some of the questions revolved around the 2009 Golden Area Initiatives commissioned Kinbasket Reservoir Commercial and Recreation Opportunities Study.
“It was noted that the potential impacts of tourism-recreation development will only partially offset the identified significant economic losses that our area has suffered,” said Oszust.
“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 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. Ms. Eikenberger stated ‘I think it’s going to be different this time.’ Personally I will have to see that to believe it. This isn’t much different than the negotiations by BC Hydro and the Province back in the days of the building of the reservoirs. I say to Ms. Eikenberger and the Province, please listen and pay attention to the concerns of our community. Listen and pay attention to our voices. Listen and pay attention to our documents”
Eichenberger said she understands where people may have their doubts but the sessions are just one way they are trying to make sure people have to get the chance to have their voices heard.
“They do. Very much so. Is there some skepticism to whether their voices will be heard. Yeah, perhaps. I think we can expect that to some degree. Our team is committed that we will demonstrate to the citizens that their voices have been heard,” she said.
Eichenberger added she understands even though it is a very large and complicated issue they are working at getting any information people request out to them.
Some of the key issues which were discussed in the phase one discussions revolved around better operations in dealing with the ecosystem and the effects of reservoir levels.
People also want to know about the benefits which come in from the treaty and have shared their views on where this financial prosperity should be spent.