LETTER: Downsides of the Columbia River Treaty

From reader Gerhard Magner

There have been articles recently in our local papers regarding renegotiations of the Columbia River Treaty. This treaty of Mr. Diefenbaker’s of 1964 profoundly changed and altered life in British Columbia, beyond the expectations of any B.C. citizen.

Waters from the Kootenay, upstream of USA (Libby) cannot be diverted for any B.C. purpose. Large tracts of very fertile Kootenay River lowlands have been converted into storage of water for Washington irrigation purposes, including Lake Kookanusa, mostly on the Canadian side.

The southern portion of British Columbia, from Revelstoke to Castlegar, has been split into two parts by artificial lakes. There is absolutely no civilized development between east and west in this area, only wilderness.

Kootenay Lake, as an extension of artificial Lake Kookanusa, etc. (Libby Dam) has become a water storage buffer to provide water requirements in Washington State. To any observer it appears that lake levels vary as well independently of seasonal variations.

Overnight it may go from minimum to maximum, including spilling, bypassing power generations. All this is controlled by the Corps of American Engineers from a station in Idaho. The negative impact of the Columbia River Treaty on the development of all of British Columbia cannot be appreciated without going into an extensive civilization type study to show what has been missed, particularly population growth and financial losses.

Although the originator(s) of the Columbia River Treaty may have had the best intentions, the treaty has not been to the advantage of British Columbia. Possibly at that time, British Columbia, as a western province, was not consulted or their wishes weren’t considered since it never had, nor has, equal representation in Ottawa.

Gerhard Magner


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