The reservoir behind Mica Dam, one of dams constructed under terms of the Columbia River Treaty. Photo courtesy Bonneville Power

B.C. minister: Trudeau-Trump relations haven’t impacted Columbia River Treaty talks

Katrine Conroy says progress has been made despite squabbling leaders

The B.C. minister responsible for the Columbia River Treaty negotiations says frosty relations between Canadian and United States leaders have not yet impacted bargaining.

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump have taken jabs at each other — the latest in which Trump attacked Trudeau because his cameo was cut from a CBC broadcast of Home Alone 2 — Katrine Conroy says the squabbling has not been a factor in treaty talks.

The Kootenay West MLA hopes it stays that way.

“It’s always a concern because we’re a little part of Canada and we’re here in the Kootenays, but it’s a very important part,” said Conroy. “It’s critically important to the province of B.C. and that’s why we have a seat at the table, that’s why we have a chief negotiator from B.C. as well as from Canada. It’s very important.

“We will see what happens.”

Eight rounds of negotiations have been held since May 2018 as Canada and the U.S. work out a new version of the water management agreement first signed in 1964.

A ninth round of talks originally scheduled for November in America has been pushed back to January.

Conroy said negotiators made slow but steady progress in 2019. One of her highlights was the Canadian inclusion of First Nations observers from the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Secwepemc Nation.

“It’s made a real difference,” said Conroy. “In this past year they’ve actually had more discussions around the ecosystem, the return of salmon, the things people thought would never be included in those discussions. But times have changed and people recognize that, which is a good thing.”

Twelve community meetings were also held throughout the B.C. Interior in 2019. Conroy said the feedback from those meetings, which will be made available online at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/, was heard by negotiators.

“It was good that we had the opportunity to talk to people throughout the Basin. I think that’s really important, that people need to know that that’s not it. They can still have input.”

Conroy is privy to the details of the negotiations but isn’t part of the Canadian team and said she can’t disclose the specifics of what’s being said at the table.

But she said what started with topics focused on flood control and power generation has broadened into discussions including climate change. Conroy said changing snow pack levels in Canada, and how that impacts water flow, is an example of how climate change affects negotiations.

“How do we deal with that?” said Conroy. “We need to have some flexibility in the treaty. We can’t say what we decide now is going to be good in the 60 years to come, because that’s what they did in the late 1950s, early 60s.

“When you think of it now, you think how things have changed so much and changed in our Basin. We have to have the ability to have flexibility in our treaty so that if things go one way or another we have the ability to deal with it.”

The Columbia River Treaty led to the Duncan, Hugh L. Keenleyside and Mica dams built in Canada for flood control and power generation, which in turn sees the U.S. pay Canada about $120 million annually, or half the value of power generated south of the border.

The original treaty has also been criticized for its lack of Indigenous consultation, its impact on the salmon population and the approximately 100,000 hectares of flooding that destroyed farming and communities such as Renata.

Related:

Columbia River Treaty: What’s on the table?



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lead found in Nelson, Creston and Salmo schools

Fourteen water fountains tested for higher than accepted lead content

Creston RCMP calls include report of man fighting bear

Road conditions, family disputes and more for Creston RCMP from Jan. 9-16

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Town of Creston purchases land for new fire hall

Referendum in October 2018 approved borrowing maximum $4.5M for Creston emergency services building

Creston high school photography students hosting show and silent auction

Nearly two dozen Prince Charles Secondary School students will have work in Jan. 24 show

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Man dies in backcountry near Nelson’s Whitewater Ski Resort

The victim was found unresponsive in a tree well Friday

Cariboo Memorial Hospital on the mend after cold weather wreaks havoc

Burst pipes and water leaks cause three different incidents

Most Read