Columbia River Treaty Negotiations held in B.C. last month

·2 min read

The 13th round of negotiations was held In Richmond

The Columbia River Treaty, established in 1964 when the U.S. prepaid Canada $64 million to ensure flood-control operations would be provided, had its 13th round of negotiations in Richmond last month on Aug. 10 and Aug. 11. Representatives of Canada and the United States attended to discuss the modernization of the treaty, which will remain in place until one party gives a 10-year termination notice, which has yet to happen.

The two-day session that was held in Richmond last week was the first formal negotiation between the two countries since January 2022. Informal talks between representatives from Canada and the U.S. were held on met on March 30, April 17, May 17, and May 24 to clarify issues related to each country's initial proposals.

Those were tabled in 2020.Kathy Eichenberger, executive director of the Columbia River Treaty Branch, said the 12 previous negotiating sessions had gone smoothly, noting that in the spring of 2019, First Nations representatives were a part of the negotiation for the first time. While the negotiations continue between Canada and the United States, B.C. has been engaging with Columbia Basin Indigenous nations, local governments and residents about the treaty and related matters.

“The negotiations are ongoing, with no timeline set to end them, but what will change in 2024 is how we manage our Canadian reservoirs to prevent serious flooding in the U.S., which means they will have to use their reservoirs more without relying on Canada,” Eichenberger said, “There are big changes still to come. It’s a slow process and we are not there yet, but we continue to move it forward.”

Two public information sessions were hosted this past spring. The first, on May 16, provided an update about negotiations, including the process for modernizing the treaty in both countries. A second information session was held on June 15, the focus of which was on the Indigenous nations-led ecosystem work that is informing potential changes to the treaty.

Eichenberger said the provincial government continues to be communication and collaboration with the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee and the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee to ensure basin interests are understood and reflected in a modern treaty.

The five governments of Canada and B.C., and those of the Secwépemc (Shuswap), Syiilx Okanagan and the Ktunaxa (Akisqnuk) First Nations, are working improve the treaty to improve conditions in the Columbia River Basin, which is located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples.

To learn more about the Columbia River Treaty, visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/.

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer