John Diefenbaker and Dwight Eisenhower at the signing of the Columbia River Treaty, January 1961. (White House Photo Office)

Talks to begin with Trump administration on Columbia River Treaty renewal

U.S. wants to pay less for flood control, B.C. wants agriculture recognized

When the B.C. government tried to get talks going on renewing the Columbia River Treaty as it reached its 50th anniversary in 2014, the Barack Obama administration didn’t seem interested.

Now the Donald Trump administration is starting discussions, adding the cross-border flood control and hydroelectric agreement to a group of increasingly hostile actions on trade and relations with Canada.

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy is representing B.C. in the talks between Canada and the U.S., with public meetings underway this week to gauge public expectations in the region that saw valleys flooded and communities abandoned to construct the Duncan, Mica and Keenleyside dams.

Then-energy minister Bill Bennett announced in 2014 that B.C. was extending the treaty another 10 years, then told a conference in Spokane that the U.S. should pay more for the electricity and flood control that comes at the expense of fertile B.C. valleys.

Conroy acknowledges that the U.S. side tends to believe it’s paying too much, with an annual share of half of the electricity value generated downstream. She inherits a deal that did not concern itself with salmon runs, wiped out by a U.S. dam in the 1930s, or the effect the dams would have on the Kootenay fruit growing industry to produce a stable water supply for U.S. fruit and other farming.

RELATED: Renata, lost village on the Arrow Lakes

RELATED: Public meetings on treaty this month

RELATED: U.S. decision to negotiate came in a tweet

“It is one of the best international water agreements in the world,” Conroy said in a legislature debate on the treaty in April. “When it comes to just power and power generation and flood control, it was ahead of its time in 1964. But thank goodness things have changed, because in 1964, they also didn’t consult with anyone in the basin.”

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok questioned Conroy on B.C. and Canada’s position going into discussions, and issues such as samon restoration that have arisen since the treaty was struck.

“The Americans need our water for their agriculture, their wine, their apples and all those sorts of things, and for navigation and shipping,” Clovechok said. “There’s recreational real estate involved here. There are a lot of reservoirs, which very, very wealthy Americans have very large houses around, which they’re concerned about and certainly are lobbying their government, and also industrial water supplies.”

Clovechok said it’s obvious that the U.S. “negotiates from the State Department, not from the governor’s office.”

Conroy declined to comment on Clovechok’s q uestion about whether B.C. is prepared to reduce any downstream benefits from the treaty, except to say that B.C.’s objective is to get “equitable or better benefits.

“I don’t think we did many, many years ago, and I think it’s our turn,” she said.

BCHydro

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

Just Posted

Sointula elementary school gets funding for new playground

Funding for the new playground comes from the provincial government’s Playground Equipment Program.

Facey nominated as BC Liberal candidate for the North Island riding

Liberal candidate Norm Facey has a background in forestry and manufacturing.

Some north Island forest service roads to get a minor facelift with COVID-19 recovery funding

Side Bay access road no longer ‘up in the bureaucratic air’ thanks to temporary budget increase

Port Hardy’s top cop says goodbye, last day will be Oct. 30

‘I want to pause, reflect, and give thanks for my experiences and time given here’

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Most Read