The Columbia Basin Trust-organized Columbia River Treaty sessions are touring the Basin again, this time to collect input from residents. The CRT Provincial Consultation took place in Nakusp on Tuesday, June 5 and ran for five hours.
Again, Nakusp shone as one of the most well-attended meetings, with one of the highest number of attendees per capita. At the afternoon consultation, 68 people gathered to voice their opinions and ideas about the CRT. However, once again there were few younger people, with the exception being the Slocan Red Fish School of Change students.
The CRT information sessions that ran last year helped get residents up to speed on what was happening in terms of the international agreement between the U.S. and Canada in regards to the water that flows down the basin and over the border, generating power and floods.
In terms of energy benefits, the U.S. pays 50 per cent of the estimated increase in downstream power benefits (determined from the amount of power it is possible to generate in a given year, not the amount actually produced) to Canada; this is called the Canadian Entitlement. The U.S. now pays an annual Canadian Entitlement in the order of $150 to $300 million a year.
The Treaty can be changed as of 2014, when either side can give ten years notice if they want to terminate the agreement. If nobody’s interested in changing the agreement, things will continue to go on much as they have since the Treaty was ratified in 1964.
The one thing that will change no matter what is that Assured Annual Flood Control will end in 2024. The U.S. paid a lump sum of $64.4 million in exchange for 60 years of flood control, and that 60 years is up in 2024. What happens next is to be determined. Will we try On Call Flood Control, something that has a theoretical definition but has never been used in practise, or will a new Assured Annual Flood Control agreement be arranged? This is just one of many questions to come in the future.
A team of presenters including Kathy Eichenberger from the Ministry of Energy and Mines were again on hand to outline the CRT and field questions.
What was stressed by all presenters was that there will be three main legs in any future agreements: flood control, power generation, and ecosystem concerns. When the first Treaty was signed, there was one lone voice for ecosystems, a member of the Nelson Rod and Gun Club who had come to speak about the impact the dams would have on fish. Now, ecological concerns are one of the main issues to be discussed.
Although the important points of the CRT were recapped again at this meeting, this time there were some new points. For instance, that although the U.S. interests may resent the Canadian Entitlement, they still owe us $200 million for power we have given them.
And again, the issue of what happened to the fixed link that was promised by the province in compensation for the changes on the communities wreaked by the dams was brought up. And again, the answer was “that’s a good question, it’s obviously something people feel very strongly about.”
Another question raised by the audience was what happened to the money from the power generated by the Columbia. The Columbia Basin dams generate roughly half of the electricity in B.C., which in turn generates approximately $1 billion a year. People wanted to know if any of the money is earmarked specifically for the most affected area, the Basin, once it goes into the Province’s general revenue. The answer wasn’t known that evening, but it was considered “a question to be explored.” Eichenberger told the audience it would be looked into and the information would be made available for them.
If you are interested in learning more about the CRT,the CBT has a very informative website that everyone and anyone can explore. If you live in the Basin, the CRT is something that affects your life everyday, so why not find out more?