05/28/2012 06:40 EDT | Updated 07/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Columbia River treaty consultations begin

Consultations on the future of the Columbia River Treaty, an international landmark agreement between the United States and Canada, began Monday in the Kootenays.

The agreement, signed in 1961, led to the flooding of the once agriculturally-rich Columbia Valley. Four dams were built; the Duncan Dam, Mica Dam and Keenleyside Dam in Canada, and the Libby Dam in the U.S.

"It impacted many lives, it impacted our environment, but it also brought us economic benefits," says Deb Kozak, chair of the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee .

Now, 50 years later, B.C. and the U.S. have the option to renegotiate the agreement and negotiate issues like water levels on B.C. lakes, but before doing so, the treaty committee is asking the people of the Kootenays for their input.

"The treaty doesn't terminate but if either side wishes to terminate there is a 10-year clause that says in 2014 you can serve notice. So we are educating people in the basin about the treaty. We're educating them about the benefits, some of the detriments that have happened and we're asking people what what we should do in future," said Kozak.

"They're very interested in what people think, what people have experienced. Are the benefits working? Are there things we can make better or are things just fine?"

Consultations began Monday in Jaffray, B.C., and will stop in cities and towns across the Kootenays through June.