Last September, Kimberley hosted the Columbia River Transboundary Conference: One River, One Future at the conference centre.
It brought together leaders, researchers, policy makers, government representatives, Indigenous peoples, industry stakeholders and scientists. Over the course of three days, participants explored a wide range of topics related to the Columbia River. Participants came from Canada and the United States—from Valemount, British Columbia, in the northeast to Portland, Oregon, in the southwest—reflecting the magnitude of the Columbia River Basin and how the river connects the people who live along it.
A summary of the conference has now been released.
There were eight different sessions plus a field trip over the weekend, the first being Climate Change and Related Impacts.
Presenters highlighted how the long-range climate models have not changed significantly in the last decade and still predict declining snowpack, increasing winter rain, increasing summer drought and rising temperatures. With higher stream flows, habitat for fish and wildlife will be affected as higher runoff increases erosion and carries larger amounts of sediment. In particular, climate change may:
● alter the timing and magnitude of water storage in the Basin’s glaciers, snowpack and streams
● increase stream temperatures, first at lower elevations and areas that are already marginal for cold-water fish
● increase the disturbance of forest ecosystems, with implications for stream temperatures and flows. The presenters highlighted that the trends are clear and the confidence in these trends is high enough to act.
Another session looked at impacts of and response to invasive species.
A significant issue facing the Basin is the proliferation of invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels, northern pike, aquatic plant species like flowering rush and terrestrial species like feral pigs. These can significantly impact the economy, the environment and human health, changing the ecosystem and affecting irrigation, hydropower and municipal water infrastructure. Flowering rush, for example, interferes with water flow, reduces water quality and availability, displaces native aquatic and riparian species, and alters valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Northern pike assertively competes against every other fish species in the same water body and is an aggressive predator. Many of these invasions have been caused by humans, which means humans are a large part of the solution. To manage and keep these species at bay, aspects like these are essential: legislative support (particularly adequate and stable funding), supportive management, dedicated trained staff, enforcement support, coordination and collaboration.
Also under discussion was the Columbia River Treaty.
In this session, Sylvain Fabi, lead Canadian negotiator for the treaty, highlighted the mutual respect and spirit of collaboration that exists among the negotiators for Canada and the U.S. as they work on a revision of the treaty. Both countries want an equitable sharing of hydropower benefits and see flood risk management as a high priority. Fabi asked participants to consider what constitutes “equitable.” The details of flood risk management remain a matter for discussion. He stated that both countries want an agreement that is fair and addresses issues in the first treaty.
Joe Pierre moderated a discussion on Indigenous Voices, which was followed by sessions on The Future of Energy and Transboundary Water Governance.
The field trip was a drive up to the headwaters of the Columbia River at Canal Flats to talk about salmon restoration and reintroduction.
The full text of conference summary can be found here.