Comment on the Columbia River Treaty Environmental Discussion Paper

Each chapter of the  Revised Columbia River Treaty Environmental Discussion Paper addresses one of the following questions:

1. What are regional/local environmental interests and values related to the Canadian Columbia Basin and possibly affected by the Treaty?
2. What is currently being done to manage for environmental interests in the Canadian Columbia Basin?

Columbia Basin residents are encouraged to submit comments and feedback through this discussion forum or by email.

Revised Columbia River Treaty Environmental Discussion Paper

3 responses to “Comment on the Columbia River Treaty Environmental Discussion Paper

  1. Serge

    The CRTR process is providing hope to restore this very damaged ecosystem. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the USA unilaterally decided to build a dam that destroyed one of the great salmon runs during the war. These fish were connecting the ocean to rivers inland providing an important source of food, without mentioning the diversity value in the food web. It is clear that if the USA would be doing that kind of things nowaday, they would have to make sure the ecosystem would be least impacted and salmon channels mandatory. I am glad to see that the discussion paper at least mentions the desire of some to restore salmon run in the upper Columbia. I would be more hopeful that the right thing is done if the CRTR would commit to it and declare its intention to restore the salmons. I think the money is driving the process a bit too much when I read this (quote):
    “In the case of Mica dam it was estimated that restricting operations for fish benefits would cost between $16M and $25M/year depending on the operational scenario. In this instance the benefits to fish and recreation were not deemed to outweigh the cost of lost power generation.”
    A complete mathematical model of the Columbia basin is required to be able to manage the flows in a modern refined manner that takes into account all the variables. The variable required for the health of the ecosystem should have more weight than given now. I am sure that with a good model, the losses in power generation can be minimized while maximizing the ecosystem’s health. Let’s not forget that money (most of it going to the province general revenue) is nice but quality of life is better. As a indicator, if the salmons runs are not restored fully, then the CRTR process would have failed.
    Golden resident, BC.

  2. Becky

    An interesting paper, I am curious to see what conclusions the next two chapters come to, and what beneficial changes are possible. Most of the documents on this site seem to avoid finding answers to the fundamental question of what will happen if the treaty is either terminated or continued, but this definitely needs to be addressed soon. There seems to be a bias toward continuing the treaty on the part of the government, but without much discussion on the full impacts of going either way. Given the future value of water in this next century, the Columbia system will be priceless. To give away control of the headwaters to the United States (again) for mere “entitlements” seems short sighted.

    All this talk of “minimizing impacts” and “maximizing benefits” sounds good, but are there clear and measurable results to ecosystem health coming out of these efforts? It does address what the key issues are for the most part though. I agree with Serge’s comment about fish and ecosystem health being far more important in the long run than money, and that salmon restoration should be pursued if at all possible.

    As far as particular impacts go, I am a bit confused about the mention of “trade-offs” in managing the Arrow Lakes system for both fish spawning and re-vegetation/wildlife benefits as stated here: “Maintaining high water levels in the autumn to allow kokanee to access spawning channels in Arrow Lakes may negatively impact fall migratory birds.” and the table discussion on page 29. Why would the kokanee and bull trout now have trouble spawning at low water levels if they historically did so pre-damming when fall levels were much lower than they are now? What is the nature of these barriers that would stop them from migrating? If it is merely sediment build up from years of massive reservoir fluctuations, would it be possible to dredge away barriers and restore access, without artificially holding high water in the summer and fall and flooding out birds and vegetation?

    Many people living on the Arrow Lakes would like to see much lower levels year round, with strong limits on how high the water can be kept. The hydrograph should be kept as close as possible to historical flows, while still allowing for emergency flood control as needed. If anything, holding the reservoir generally low would allow for a greater buffer in the case of extreme floods or upstream dam failure. The generating station at Arrow operates as a run of river and does not require full pool.

    Lower levels would allow for large scale ecological restoration of the degraded shoreline, habitat for wildlife, and opening of beaches for recreation. Given the sensitive nature of fisheries in this lake, anything that can feasibly be done to help them survive and thrive should be done. It is all one system, there should not need to be tradeoffs. Also, statements about holding reservoirs high in the summer for “recreation” are bunk, they only benefit boaters, and even then they have nowhere to land, no more beaches or bays. We do not know what the ideal numbers for reservoir levels are yet due to a lack of data to work with, but hopefully we can work this out at the technical conference and through further study and cooperation.

    Regarding the whole process of consultation, I am curious as to why no one responded to an email I sent to Not everyone is comfortable posting things publicly, there should be a way for citizens to comment privately to government as well. I mean no personal insult to those working on this process, you have very hard jobs and many competing interests to appease. However, the interests of the people living near these reservoirs and the long term health of the ecosystem should definitely be the top priorities for any decisions, keep that in mind.

    Think about what the world will be like 50 years down the road. You can talk about millions and billions of dollars all you want, but that sort of money is thrown around and blown away annually by wasteful governments. Having this river exist as a functional, continuous ecosystem indefinitely is absolutely priceless, please don’t throw away the inheritance of future generations. Simply, terminate the treaty and manage the upper Columbia for Canadian interests, give us back control of our water. This treaty has brought nothing but misery, loss, and degradation to the people who live with the river.

    Edgewood, BC

    1. Moderator

      Hi Becky,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I apologize for the delay in responding to your January 26 email to We are researching your questions and will send a response as soon as we are able.

      Moderator Ingrid

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