The treaty that binds

Even though 2014 seems like ages from now, Nelson city councillor Deb Kozak thinks it’s important that the community educate themselves and become involved with the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.

Even though 2014 seems like ages from now, Nelson city councillor Deb Kozak thinks it’s important that the community educate themselves and become involved with the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.

“I think the number-one reason the public should get involved with the process is that the Columbia River binds us all together,” said Kozak.

“The Columbia River is an important part of our daily lives. The Kootenay Lake river system here in Nelson is part of the Columbia River. Anything that happens to our river systems or is planned for our river systems impacts us all and should involve us all.”

Kozak is the chairperson for the community engagement process that’s being led by local government across the Basin and Boundary regions.

“I just think it’s critically important, it’s not only an issue that’s important for the people living in this area but this Treat has national significance. It’s an important thing for us to learn about,” she said.

“One of the other facts about the treaty that may not be known is that it has served as a model for how to co-operate around treaties and water systems for other parts of the world. It’s been studied by other areas in the world as a possible way to get agreements on water systems and I find that very interesting. It’s not without it’s flaws but it’s also worked quite well for us since the 1960s.”

The Columbia River Treaty was ratified and came into effect in the fall of 1964.

It is an agreement on the development and operation of dams in the upper Columbia River basin. The dams were developed for flood control and the creation of hydroelectric power for both countries.

“Along with those kinds of things always come the flip side, and the flip side being that there has been impact on habitat, there were impacts on people who were residing in areas especially the Arrow Lakes area when that area was flooded,” said Kozak.

“Many people lost their homes and businesses. This process is to understand more about what has happened with the Columbia River system and how we want that to look into the future.”

The Columbia Basin Trust along with the Association of Kootenay-Boundary Local Governments will be organizing a series of educational events.

“The one in Nelson is slated for November 14. We’ve got local people in each community who are going to assist us in our events and the Trust will come and present information to the members of the public about the Treaty: about how it was formed and what this new renegotiation process could mean,” said Kozak.

For more information about the Treaty or the renegotiation process visit the Columbia Basin Trust website at


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