September 16, 2014 could be an historic day for the Arrow Lakes valley, the earliest day when 10 year prior notification of extinguishment of the Columbia River Treaty can be delivered.
The destruction of this rare fertile valley to serve the operational needs of American electricity companies was the darkest period in the history of British Columbia.
No one really knows what Diefenbaker was thinking when the CRT protocol was signed in Washington on Eisenhower’s last day in office. No one really knows what WAC Bennett’s state of mind was when he suddenly, against his most knowledgeable advisors, tossed the Arrow Lakes carelessly into the negotiation. No one really knows why Lester Pearson, who had previously opposed the Treaty protocol, was convinced otherwise and ratified the Treaty on that bleak September day in 1964.
What followed was a human and natural disaster unprecedented in the history of the province. Many books and papers have been written about what a one-sided horrible deal the Treaty was. Hard working pioneers were tossed off their land, productive river bottom land washed away and sensitive riparian ecosystems eliminated. The Treaty wrought a path of devastation across the interior of the province that no mitigation plans could ever fix.
There are some aspects of the treaty that must continue; we must not intentionally flood out our neighbour to the south. Obviously, some cross border management protocols must be maintained.
This is not 1961 however, and we know more about the nature of the problems that mega-project development in the Columbia Basin has caused. We need new objectives that recognize current knowledge and engineering capabilities that now exist on both sides of the border. We have ten years to develop a new strategy that does not continue or repeat the mistakes of the past.
On September 16, 2014, notification must be given to all Peoples that a new way forward can be found that is sustainable, enlightened and recognizes values that once were somehow forgotten.
Edward E. McGinnis
CRT Action Group