The request, in a letter sent on June 13 from the US Senate to British Columbia Premier John Horgan, expressed concern that the International Joint Commission did not convene in April for its usual meeting as the IJC lacked a quorum among US and Canadian commissioners.
The senators noted that bilateral discussions on transboundary water issues that typically occur in conjunction with the biannual convening of the IJC have strengthened bilateral cooperation between the two governments. Given the absence of this spring meeting, the senators provided Horgan with a summary of their own work in Congress to dedicate attention and resources to US concerns about the BC transboundary watersheds, where several mines are operating and/or planned.
Some of these open-pit hard rock and coal mines have been in operation for decades, prompting concerns that they are polluting rivers flowing from British Columbia. with acid mine drainage and other contaminants harmful to the salmon in those rivers. The provincial government recently opened a permitting process for a new mine at the headwaters of the Skagit River, which flows into Washington state through North Cascades National Park and into Puget Sound.
According to Salmon Beyond Borders, current provincial regulations do not require a cumulative analysis of mining impacts to these rivers, nor consent from First Nations, private property owners or for meaningful public input from U.S. stakeholders and tribal members.
The senators note that the US federal government established an interagency working group in 2017 to address concerns regarding BC mining activity in transboundary watersheds and to determine mechanisms necessary to safeguard US economic interests and resources.
They also reminded Horgan that Congress recently appropriated $1.8 million to the US Department of the Interior for steam gauges in transboundary rivers to provide better monitoring and water quality data, including detection of any impact from upstream mining, at the international boundary. In addition, they noted, Congress has directed the US Geological Survey to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes and other agencies to develop a long-term water quality strategy to address contamination risks in transboundary rivers shared by British Columbia and Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana.