The Columbia River flows through Golden. Keri Sculland/Star Photo

Columbia River Treaty talks continue in Golden

By Keri Sculland

As part of a series of meetings hosted across the Columbia Basin, discussions about the Columbia River Treaty came to Golden on October 29.

Provincial representatives, First Nations and Indigenous presented the recent discussions to the Town of Golden.

Information was presented about the Columbia River Treaty, and opened discussion from local interest groups.

“Those that were there were quite passionate about the subject matter,” said Town of Golden Mayor Ron Oszust. “The biggest part that we heard there., through the Columbia River Treaty process, there needs to be more attention paid to the Kinbasket.”

READ MORE: Kinbasket Reservoir important in Columbia River Treaty talks

Some discussion included possible governance over the Kinbasket Reservoir. The reservoir has a 175-foot drawdown, which greatly impacts recreation opportunities.

“A big concern for the community is access to the reservoir and the road access,” Oszust said.

The Columbia River Treaty focuses on the use of the water, but Oszust said communities are interested in seeing more attention paid to ecosystems and ecosystem functions above the water.

“The ecosystem function stuff is brought up as a result of the fact that when they made the dams, they actually flooded a lot of the land that was critical to the ecosystems,” Oszust said. “There were a lot of studies done relative to aquatics.”

The Kinbasket Reservoir is the largest in the Columbia River system, and the first reservoir in the system on this end of the river.

At the last round of communities meetings in 2018, Golden expressed concerns for the ecosystem and operations of the Kinbasket Reservoir. The main points from that meeting, presented to the provincial and federal representatives, was that First Nations should be at the negotiating table, ecosystems need to be included as a priority, there should be less fluctuation levels in the Kinbasket Reservoir, and there should be equitable distribution of benefits to affected areas, including Golden and Area A.

READ MORE: River treaty meeting discusses ecological concerns

There was a heavy interest in a presentation from the First Nations in bringing salmon back, and environmental stewardship under and above the water line.

The last round of meetings took place in September near Cranbrook. The Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Syilx/Okanagan Nations made presentations on ecosystem goals and objectives in the Canadian Columbia Basin, which are being presented to communities around the Basin now. A collaboration between Indigenous, provincial, and federal governments is exploring the reintroduction of salmon in the Upper Columbia.

Building on previous meetings, negotiators discussed issues related to ecosystem co-operation, flood-risk management and hydro power. To read a news release on the latest round of negotiations, visit www.news.gov.bc.ca/20602.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in the United States on November 19 and 20, 2019.

“Negotiations continue with Canada and the USA for the Columbia River Treaty,” said Columbia-Shuswap Regional District Electoral Area A director Karen Cathcart. “The province continues to engage residents and to update them and local government groups.”

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