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Open reply, to the open letter from Honourable Alex Atamanenko, Member of Parliament, of February 4, 2009, to Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister of the Environment.  In which Mr. Atamanenko urged Canada, First Nations, and British Columbia to unequivocally oppose Washington State, to build a hydroelectric dam on the Similkameen River at Shenker Bend, near Oroville WA, and Osoyoos British Columbia, BC.  Similkameen River starts at Manning Park British Columbia and crosses in to the US at Nighthawk, WA and is a tributary to Okanogan River (Okanagan on the Canadian side) and the Columbia River.

Depending on the scale and water storage, the size of the dam could more or less affect Canada and British Columbia and that should be a concern in Canada.  Likewise, the concern in the US and WA, should Canada ever decide to build a hydroelectric dam and water reservoir on the Canadian side, which potentially could divert water from the Similkameen to the Okanagan.     

However, the important thing is that no decision has been made on either side of the border. The only decision made in WA as to the Similkameen River is to invest $300.000 in research and an exploratory feasibility study, and Canada is invited to participate. Olympia’s decision to earmark $200 million to study water storage is not a decision to build a dam on the Similkameen River that would flood 7200 hectares in Canada, as Mr. Atamanenko writes about in Canada.  The outcome of the study may be to “just” restore and relicense the Enloe Dam decommissioned in the early fifties, with little or no impact to Canada. 

With all respect to Mr. Atamanenko, instead of urging Canada and Canadians to oppose ideas at the exploratory stage, may I suggest that it would be better to urge Canada to participate and work with the US and WA in the research, involving universities in Washington and British Columbia.   

The research is suitable for the faculty at UBCO Barber School of Arts & Sciences at the University of British Columbia Okanagan Kelowna.  As well for The Canadian Swedish IISRE Initiative, the Institute for Sustainable Regional Economies, in cooperation with IRIS, the Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship at North Central Washington Resource Conservation & Development Council. Water is already a strategic commodity, and will increase in importance globally.  The International Joint Commission obviously has an obligation here to find joint understanding and solutions.  

Mr. Atamanenko’s letter should remind politicians that politics cannot be understood without the use of social and natural science.  Hence, democracy and a sustainable economy and the standard of living in a democratic governed economy as Canada and United States, entirely depend on understanding produced by research.  Understanding that emerges in society by a free flow of information, openly reported and vigorously discussed.  Mr. Atamanenko’s letter should spur reflection and vigorous discussion to the left or the right on both sides of the border and that is good, because Canada and United States are caught in an inescapable network of social, economic and ecological mutuality.  What affects one country directly, will unequivocally affect all indirectly, such as a dam, whether it is to the north or south or of the border. 


 February 11, 2009