MLA for Kootenay West and Minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, Katrine Conroy has continued work on the Columbia River Treaty through the pandemic.
Conroy was reappointed to her role as Minister Responsible for the Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation and the Columbia River Treaty following the 2020 B.C. Election.
Negotiations are ongoing between Canada and the U.S. regarding the treaty, and Conroy said she understands those who have been impacted by it.
“I have spoken with countless people over the years who have seen the effects first-hand and who have expressed the need for improvement. The treaty has benefited the basin by reducing flood risk and increasing generation of clean electricity, but there are other critical issues to consider, like Indigenous values, ecosystem enhancement and regional economic development,” said Conroy in a statement.
Conroy added that the Canadian negotiating team is focusing its efforts on modernizing the treaty, and all parts of the team have found a way to move forward amid COVID-19 restrictions.
The team consists of various federal, provincial and Indigenous representatives.
Following negotiations in June, the proposal, developed collaboratively by B.C., Canada and Columbia Basin Indigenous Nations, is expected to be mutually beneficial for Canada and the U.S.
“During the ninth round of Canada-U.S. negotiations, held in March 2020 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. tabled a framework for a modernized treaty. In June, negotiators met virtually for the 10th round of talks, during which the Canadian team tabled its own proposal, covering a range of issues, including flood-risk management, power generation, ecosystem function and increased flexibility for Canadian operations,” said Conroy.
However, Conroy explained that her counterparts in the United States have sought an end to the negotiations.
“In early December, three members of the U.S. House of Representatives tabled a resolution asking that the Trump administration give notice to terminate the treaty. It is worth emphasizing there has not been a 10-year termination notice issued to date,” said Conroy. “If such a notice were issued, we would work with Canada and basin Indigenous Nations to determine our next steps. For now, we remain confident negotiations will continue because it is in the best interests of both countries to do so.”
For now, however, there is more work to be done at home.
“Indigenous Nations continue to lead efforts to enhance ecosystems in the basin and explore the feasibility of restoring salmon to the Upper Columbia River. Local governments are focusing on socio-economic objectives to be considered in a modernized treaty,” explained Conroy. “Our government is addressing community concerns related to the treaty and supporting initiatives across the basin, be they in Nakusp, Creston, Jaffray, Golden or Valemount, and aiding in the development of a heritage touring route, as one way to acknowledge what was lost as a result of the treaty dams.”
Conroy and her team will engage communities about the treaty and related issues in the New Year.
“This is a critical time, not only for the basin, but for the whole province. It means a great deal to me to be part of the efforts to ensure we have a treaty that benefits our region,” concluded Conroy.
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