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NW Fishletter #323, October 14, 2013

[8] B.C. Takes Comments On Columbia River Treaty Consultation Draft

The British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines has released for comment its "Public Consultation Report Working Draft," which summarizes comments and key findings for the province's Columbia River Treaty (CRT) Review Team. It will inform the Team's recommendations to the B.C. cabinet on the future of the CRT.

The province has already held 19 meetings with basin residents, with average attendance of 52, and is planning another round of meetings next month. The province has been consulting separately with "relevant First Nations."

The process is the Canadian counterpart to the CRT review being conducted by the U.S. Entity in conjunction with the Sovereign Review Team. The U.S. Entity is currently taking comments on its draft recommendation through Oct. 25. The province has not released a draft recommendation.

The Canadian draft concludes "there doesn't seem to appear to be definite Basin-wide consensus on most issues raised during public consultation." Nor, it suggests, should there be, "as each part of the Basin experiences impacts, benefits, opportunities and challenges differently, depending on a whole host of circumstances."

But it reports the "vast majority" of basin residents believe the treaty should be continued with improvements, and that most feel "no further significant impacts to the basin should be accepted."

According to the draft report, "most basin residents strongly believe that the Canadian Entitlement is the only benefit Canada receives" from the treaty. Others question whether the province can afford the loss of the entitlement, while some "identify a trade-off" between the entitlement and ecosystem gains. There is also a dispute as to the distribution of the entitlement among affected parties.

Residents want less revenue retained by the province and more to communities, the controversial Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program and other mitigation.

"A number of residents question whether the Basin receives a fair share of revenues from power generation, the Canadian Entitlement and Non Treaty Storage Agreement revenues." They want B.C. to "maximize the dollar value of the Entitlement to include non-power benefit benefits to the U.S. such as irrigation, recreation, navigation, and endangered species." Many say the Non-Treaty Storage Agreement "should be included in options for the Treaty."

The report also notes that many residents feel "ecosystems, flood control and power generation (and return of downstream benefits) should be equally important," the document states, while others "strongly believe that ecosystems deserve the very highest priority in the implementation of the Treaty going forward."

It also found that most residents "would like to see a reduction of the frequency and degree of water level changes [in reservoirs], even at the expense of power generation."

In addition, "most Basin residents want to ensure that climate change considerations are explicitly included in any future implementation of the Treaty."

Many of those attending workshops said "recommendations for the future of the Treaty should include salmon restoration and that these recommendations should apply to both sides of the border."

Further, many basin residents "believe flood control should be equal in priority to ecosystem health and power generation," while many others "feel flood control should be the highest priority." -Ben Tansey

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