Nathalie Allard is one of the Ktunaxa Nation observers in the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. She spoke at a recent meeting in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nathalie Allard is one of the Ktunaxa Nation observers in the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. She spoke at a recent meeting in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Columbia River Treaty: ‘It is going to get tough’

B.C. negotiator tells Nelson meeting that talks are cordial, so far

Canadian and B.C. negotiators at the Columbia River Treaty table with the U.S. government have not hit the hard parts yet, according to the lead of the province’s negotiating team.

“The negotiations have not been heated yet,” Kathy Eichenberger told a public meeting in Nelson on Nov. 13 attended by about 60 people.

“We are exchanging information and data, trying to understand each other’s views and concerns and so far it is cordial, but it is going to get tough. We are not at that point yet though. These first rounds are an opportunity to get comfortable with each other. Things will get more difficult.”

Negotiators from Canada, B.C., and the U.S. have met eight times in the past two years in different locations, most recently hosted by the Ktunaxa Nation.

A sticking point

One of the expected sticking points in the negotiations, according to Eichenberger, will be what is known as the Canadian Entitlement.

That’s a provision of the treaty that sees the U.S. pay Canada half of the value of power generated by Columbia River flows from Canada (about $120 million worth of power annually).

“We have not talked about the Canadian Entitlement yet,” said Lyn Ponniah of Global Affairs Canada, taking part in the meeting by video link.

“The U.S. thinks it is too high,” she said. “But the Canadian team will not accept a deal that does not have value for Canada. By value I mean not just monetary but also taking into consideration all the things we have heard from residents about ecosystem flexibility, salmon introduction, attention being given to climate impacts.”

Protecting ecosystems

Eichenberger implied that one of the other issues that could become contentious might be Canada’s desire for ecosystem flexibility and protection.

“How we use and understand ecosystems are very different on both sides of the border,” she said.

She did not elaborate on this, as on many other issues, because they are all in the process of negotiation and therefore confidential. She acknowledged this is frustrating for members of the public wanting to know what is going on.

Ponniah mentioned two other issues that could become contentious but again did not elaborate.

“We also continued the discussions on flood risk management and hydro power and we are pleased to see progress on these. This is a complex undertaking as both sides grapple with their own unique data. We hope we can find common ground.”

Another potentially difficult issue, not mentioned at the meeting, is drought and decreased river flows in the U.S. because of climate change. This may mean that U.S. municipalities and agriculture will want more of the water stored behind dams in Canada.

A science lesson

Michael Zimmer, a biologist at the Syilx/Okanagan Nation told the meeting what ecosystem function was lost as a result of the treaty dams – huge runs of salmon and steelhead, thousands of miles of streams and tributaries and wildlife habitats they provided, several nursery lakes, and tribes’ consumption of fish.

He discussed progress in planning for salmon re-introduction on both sides of the border and about the extensive research and data collection needed to protect floodplains, forests, wetlands, reservoir ecosystems, and anadromous fish species.

First Nations involvement

Earlier this year the Global Affairs Canada invited representatives of the Ktunaxa, Syilx/Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations to participate as observers in the Canadian delegation at the negotiations. They take part in pre-negotiation meetings and have made presentations to the negotiators on salmon and ecosystems.

Nathalie Allard of the Ktunaxa Nation is one of those observers and attended the Nelson meeting.

“This allows us to regain our ability to meet our own responsibilities,” she said. “So it is very meaningful participation. Round Eight was hosted in my community and I took full advantage of that.

“I brought in the entire elementary school to open the meeting because I wanted to highlight our children because this is my life, not just a job, and I wanted to bring them into this. We are speaking for those who came before us and those yet to come.”

An audience member asked why the Sinixt, declared extinct by the federal government in the 1950s, are not at the table.

Eichenberger said the Colville Tribes in Washington State, which include the Sinixt, are being consulted by the U.S. government in the negotiations, and it could be seen as a conflict of interest if the Sinixt were advising both countries.

“But we do respect the decisions of the B.C. courts,” she said, “and we know they have rights in this region, there is no question, the courts have said so.”

The Nelson meeting was one of a series of such gatherings held throughout the region this fall.

Related:

• First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

• Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up in Cranbrook

• Columbia River Treaty: What’s on the table?

• COLUMN: A growing thirst south of the border

• COLUMN: Advocating for the Salmon Spirit



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Nathan Matthew is one of the Secwepemc Nation observers in the Columbia River Treaty Negotiations. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nathan Matthew is one of the Secwepemc Nation observers in the Columbia River Treaty Negotiations. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Just Posted

Cheryl Kmyta took this picture to Facebook to see if anyone knew about the fire above Naramata on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Facebook)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Black smoke could be seen rising from the mountain around 4:30 p.m.

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

No dental coverage for low income Canadians. (File photo)
OPINION: Penticton MP’s proposal for universal dental coverage rejected

One in 3 Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read