The Columbia River Treaty re-negotiation is one of the most understated yet most important federal issues in our Kootenay-Columbia. Right now the Americans send about $120 million annually into BC Government coffers from hydro that is generated in the US. This money is compensation for using Kootenay Columbia as the American water reservoir and for flood control. The Treaty that directs this cash for water flow is up for re-negotiation.
The US water lobby is powerful, conservative, organized and strong. They want to eliminate our Canadian entitlement yet retain existing water control and business as usual. The impact on our Kootenay vitality – our ecology, sustainable farming, tourism, recreation, forestry and fisheries – continues to be massive. About 1100 square kilometers of our Kootenay Columbia remain underwater so American hydro generating companies can maximize power production, minimize their urban flood concerns, irrigate a semi-arid desert, and maintain recreational opportunities on their waterfronts.
Lake Roosevelt is a US mecca of recreation and has been insulated from ecologically damaging up and down water levels. Meanwhile much of Lake Koocanusa is dried up for most of the year, and you can’t even launch a boat. The Americans enjoy the benefit of irrigation in an arid, dry zone, growing water thirsty, high value crops like alfalfa. Meanwhile, in Canada, the third largest agricultural valley in British Columbia remains under water.
We deserve better. We need to take a hard line at the negotiating table and act like the upstream country we are. We need assurances the Kootenay Columbia sacrifices are compensated. We need tenacity, smarts and hard work to make this happen. We need Robin.
A weir – a non-power generating dam-like structure – on the Canadian side of the reservoir to keep reservoir levels more consistent should be a top priority for our MP – not just a media release and photo op!
And there’s more: Not one cent of the Treaty earnings is earmarked directly to Kootenay-Columbia as compensation. Imagine how millions of dollars every year in government initiatives would benefit local healthcare, transportation, culture, recreation, agriculture, economic development, environmental protection…
We have a federal Treaty being negotiated and our representative is a provincial government whose leader didn’t campaign out of the Lower Mainland. We need another voice, a savvy voice, a loud Kootenay-Columbia voice advocating for better. We need Robin Goldsbury working for us.
Post Script: In the 1960s Columbia River Treaty dams and reservoirs inundated 270,000 acres of prime Kootenay Columbia ecosystems. We lost almost 1100 square kilometers of agricultural lands, foraging /livestock ranges, and timberland. Thousands of Kootenay-Columbia residents and First Nations were displaced. Entire communities and their infrastructure flooded forever.