Kinbasket Lake is a reservoir controlled by Mica Dam. Keri Sculland/Star Photo

Kinbasket Reservoir important in Columbia River Treaty talks

The Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee (CBRAC) has been hard at work at the treaty table negotiations for the Columbia River and the Kinbasket Reservoir.

An upcoming meeting at the Golden Civic Centre will present many of the issues surrounding the negotiations and invites the community to come out and learn more about issues that affect the Golden area.

Public engagement has been an important part of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, which brings together the provincial government, BC Hydro, and stakeholders in Canada and the United States.

A key in the negotiations has been including First Nations and Indigenous people at the table. Through the talks, the Ktunaxa people have voiced their concerns for the environmental implications of the treaty, and plan to bring salmon back up the Columbia River and restore the natural habitats on the water.

The Columbia River Treaty negotiations cover everything that goes on with Kinbasket Reservoir levels and Columbia River water flows. The negotiations do not include activity that happens on the shorelines and into the surrounding area, which is also of high importance, said committee member Randy Priest.

“Some of the things they don’t talk about are the fact that BC Hydro, under their licence they have for the water control, they are only responsible for the water,” Priest said. “Above the water, whatever the beach is out there is provincial.”

Right from the beginning when the reservoir was flooded, Priest says Kinbasket has been a disaster.

In 2002, the province and BC Hydro developed a water use plan for the Columbia River after many years of negotiations. With negotiations open once again, fish, wildlife, and the environment are top factors.

Priest was a part of the water use plan development, and was asked by the province to join CBRAC, along with another Golden local.

“There’s been a lot of learning for people to understand what the treaty is all about, and also how do we change it,” Priest said. “I believe a lot of it is going to be pushed by the Indigenous people… They are more interested in recovering the natural environment than I think we have been… I think they have a bigger voice than we have as well.”

The last Columbia River Treaty meeting in Golden took place in June, 2018. Since then, many negotiations have been underway.

“We’re going to talk about a couple of things that have happened since the last meeting,” Priest said. “There is a letter of agreement that outlines a three-year plan to get salmon back into the Columbia River.”

The latest meetings will include presentations by Indigenous Nations on their ongoing study of ecosystems in the Columbia Basin, and updates on how the province is working to address community interests.

Meetings will take place in Revelstoke, Valemount, Cranbrook, Jaffray, Creston, Invermere, Genelle, Nelson, Meadow Creek, Nakusp, Fauquier, and Golden. The meeting is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Golden Civic Centre on October 29.

To learn more about the Columbia River Treaty, visit www.engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreat, or check on Facebook at Columbia River Treaty.

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