“A Legacy for the People:” The Columbia Basin Trust as Model for the Angat River Basin?


Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.

Read the first part of this memo HERE.

Memo #287

By Brett Dimond – brett.dimond [at] gmail.com

The issue of centralized control over water resources has not always been confined to developing countries. In 1964, Canada and the United States ratified the Columbia River Treaty, whose primary purpose was to coordinate the operation of the river for flood control and hydropower generation. Little consideration was given by the Canadian government to the negative effects of the Treaty on the residents of the area. Instead, money derived from the Treaty was used by British Columbia to develop hydropower projects. The benefits from this additional generating capacity were distributed to all British Columbians. Not until the early 1990s did this change, when the people of the Kootenays mobilized to form the Columbia River Treaty Committee and requested from the Province a more equitable distribution of costs and benefits. The Province responded in 1995 by passing the Columbia Basin Trust Act, which established the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT)—an organization, governed by a board of basin residents, that aims to promote social, environmental, and economic well-being within the region.

Might such a model serve as inspiration for the Angat River Basin in the Philippines? Admittedly, the governance contexts are different. Yet, the institutional environment within the Philippines does not present an insurmountable barrier. Rather, the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991 is testament to the potential for increased local control. Instead, the greatest barrier might be the inability of civil society within the region to mobilize at the necessary level to effect change. Additionally, there seems to be an expectation that the national government should address pressing issues, such as flood control. Increasing awareness and education may trigger increased commitment to water issues within the basin, catalyzing civic initiative. If successful, the trust and reciprocity developed through such an effort would serve as the bedrock for the creation of a new watershed organization moving forward. Such an effort would not be easy and would take time to develop (especially if values must change), but—as alluded to by the motto of the CBT—the potential of creating “a legacy for the people” must not go unrealized.

Brett Dimond is a graduate student at the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), UBC. He is a member of the SSHRC-funded research project Collaborative Governance of Urbanizing Watersheds: Integrated Research, Institution, and Capacity-building for Sustainability and Climate-risk Adaptation in the Angat River Basin, Philippines.

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The Brilliant Dam, near Castlegar, BC–owned and operated by the Columbia Power Corporation in partnership with the Columbia Basin Trust–is one example of a co-governance arrangement between higher and lower levels of government (credit: waferboard).

  • Urbanizing Watersheds: Collaborative Governance of the Angat River Basin in the Philippines. (Public website for SSHRC-funded research project Collaborative Governance of Urbanizing Watersheds)



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