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Turning back the pages: The Columbia Treaty Project

I have been asked multiple times in the past few years to collect information about the planning and development of the Mica Dam. This information is important as talks continue about the Columbia River Treaty.
Pictured is Casey’s Store, one of the local merchandise stores where you could buy almost everything you needed and you would be kindly attended by Casey himself. (Photo courtesy of the Golden Museum)

I have been asked multiple times in the past few years to collect information about the planning and development of the Mica Dam. This information is important as talks continue about the Columbia River Treaty.

Recently I was asked to find any articles relating to promises made by BC Hydro to boost the economy of the areas affected by the dam. I haven’t had much luck. From the hundreds of pages I’ve read, it appears that BC Hydro showed us how tourism could be improved and the benefits of it, but never made any actual promises. The following is an article I found in the Golden Star from Jan. 14, 1965, where they tell us what the possibilities are.

Columbia Treaty Project Is Expected to Boost Tourist Trade

Tourist spending in the area near the Columbia Treaty project is expected to total about $17 million annually by 1970 compared to expenditures of about $7 million in the same area in 1964.

That’s the prediction of BC Hydro economists J.T. Arnold and D.T. Thomson, who advise tourist industries to plan now if they want to take advantage of the multimillion-dollar opportunities that lie ahead.

The two economists estimate that visitors to the Three Treaty projects, Mica, Arrow, and Duncan – will be responsible for about one-third of the additional spending.

The hydro economists predict that the Revelstoke area will receive most of the benefit from spending by tourist attracted by the construction of mammoth Mica Dam, largest of the three Columbia Treaty projects.

The two economists point out that the $10 million increase in annual tourist spending in the project area by 1970 will not be achieved without careful planning by local governments, businessmen and the tourist industry to ensure adequate facilities are provided to attract and accommodate visitors.

BC Hydro will do its part to attract tourists by providing viewpoints at all three projects so that tourists can watch the construction from suitable vantage points. Signs will be erected to direct tourists to the project and attendants will be on duty at the project sites during the tourist season to provide general information to visitors.

Washrooms and refreshment facilities are planned at the site of Mica Dam, 92 miles north of Revelstoke and tourist washroom facilities will be provided at the site of Duncan Dam, 25 miles north of Kaslo.

The creation of the lake behind installation of boat handling facilities at Arrow and easier access to Duncan will play important roles in tourism in the region.

BC Hydro is also considering the possibility of reserving an area for campsites, beaches, and public recreation.

The hydro report on tourist business opportunities in the Columbia region follows an earlier report outlining the impact that payrolls from the construction of ten Columbia projects will have in the same area.

The hydro economists point out that lodging, food, transportation (gas, oil, etc.), will account for 85 per cent of tourist spending in the Columbia Region.

Food and Transportation will account for about 33 per cent of the visitor’s dollar and lodging for about 19 per cent with the remaining divided among miscellaneous items such as entertainment, souvenirs and occasional shopping.

The hydro study indicates that tourists visiting the Columbia region at present tend to spend about half as much on shopping, entertainment and miscellaneous items as tourists on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. In 1970, if current spending patterns prevail, there will be about $2.5 million spent on these items in the Columbia region – an increase of almost a half-million dollars over 1964. The hydro economists say there will be a real opportunity for alert businessmen in the project to capitalize on this category of tourist spending.

The two economists say the tourist is prepared to spend money if he can easily find merchandise or entertainment that appeals to him at competitive prices.

Businessmen would also be wise, the economist, to examine local entertainment facilities with a view to determine if these can be exploited to gain more of the tourist dollar.

“Tourism,” the two researchers add, “is a unique industry which contributes substantially to the economy without deleting natural resources, nor making demands of government service such as schools, hospitals, social welfare, etc.”

Huh! No promises in any of that, just reminders that we should get to work if we want to have the benefits! If you happen to have collected newspaper clippings, advertisements or articles that could be helpful would you mind dropping by the museum?

Claire Palmer

About the Author: Claire Palmer

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