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Canada, U.S. conclude latest round of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Eleventh round of talks were completed on Dec.9, both sides plan to meet again in January.
The Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar was one of three built as part of the Columbia River Treaty. It has had a huge impact on the Columbia River valley all the way to Revelstoke. Photo: Contributed

The latest round of talks in the renegotiation and modernization of the Columbia River Treaty concluded between Canada and the United States, last week.

Negotiators for both sides met for the eleventh time to discuss ecosystem priorities, post-2024 flood risk management and operational flexibility within the treaty terms, according to an update from the provincial government.

On behalf of the Canadian negotiating delegation, Columbia Basin Indigenous Nations delivered a presentation to the United States delegation on the ongoing ecosystem studies and analysis efforts, while U.S. federal agencies and tribal advisors similarly presented to the Canadian side.

“This session expanded the conversation around each country’s key interests, building on proposals for a modernized agreement that were tabled by Canada and the U.S. during the two rounds of talks in 2020,” reads a statement from the province.

B.C. representatives also led a discussion about increasing flexibility in the treaty.

The last round of negotiations was held over one year ago in June 2020.

The Columbia River Treaty is a water management and power generation agreement between Canada and the United States that was ratified in 1964. Under the terms, three dams — Duncan, Mica and Keenleyside — were built on the Canadian side, and one — Libby — in the United States.

The United States prepaid $64 million over 60 years, while also paying for half of the incremental power potential from new flow regimes.

However, the treaty has been historically criticized for it’s lack of engagement with Indigenous Nations, as the treaty dams and reservoirs flooded over 100,000 hectares of land, displacing over two thousand people and impacting ecosystems, cultural sites, agriculture and forestry.

In 2019, the federal government announced the participation of the Ktunaxa, Syilx-Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations in the negotiations as official observers. With Indigenous input, ecosystem function has been included as an element in the treaty talks, alongside the main negotiation positions on flood control management and power generation.

The next round of talks will occur on January 10, 2022 by videoconference, according to the U.S. State Department.

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Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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