This Week in History

Third and final of a three-part series, written for the Arrow Lakes News by Ron Ansell of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society.

  • Mar. 30, 2016 10:00 a.m.

The answer seems to lie in the mental and emotional makeup of the man that was Donald Waterfield. He felt a responsibility to explain the bad parts to his fellow citizens. No matter that he would personally not suffer a loss, he felt the treaty was wrong. It would destroy a belt of rich soils which were even in those days relatively rare. It would forever alter the ecosystem, changing the climate, animal and plant life. It would destroy the beauty of the valley he had come to call his home. Many people would be seriously affected. The treaty was not as good a deal for Canada as it was made out to be. Moreover, it was but a part of a master plan to utilize much of the water resources of the entire North American continent for the good of perhaps only the American Southwest an idea so far fetched as to seem ridiculous in the 1960s.

It was almost the beginning of the 21st Century, and now when we examine the objections raised those many years ago they seem to have a new importance. The electric power potential of the Columbia, while still present, has seemingly decreased in value to the U.S. power corporations which has resulted in a reneging on some of the treaty terms. Thus, as predicted, the deal was not as financially beneficial as planned. Having lost control of our lake level to the U.S. we have lost some of the sovereignty over our own resources. No matter that our loggers need a certain minimum water level to transport logs or to access their cutting areas. No matter area beaches can vary from year to year in size from a few hundred feet in width to close to a km. The level has become important or rather was remained important, as Donald Waterfield said it would. And our control was signed away.

The far-fetched master plan that seemed so ridiculous in the 1960’s seems much more relevant and ominous today when we hear of proposals to divert part of the flow of the Fraser River into the Columbia, to divert more of the Nechako River into the Kemano Completion system, and to dam and reverse the flow of some rivers of the Artic watershed.

The flooding of the Arrow Lakes and the creation of the Arrow Reservoir did eliminate the farmland strip and the many subsistence farms and small holdings, but at present there does not seem to be a shortage of agricultural products on area store shelves. There is, however, a shortage of locally produced foods as a result we are almost entirely dependent on outside areas for our supply. Like most cities we need the produce from somewhere else in order to eat. But we are not a city, and if we have lost the ability to raise at least some of our own food ourselves we become dependent on the whims and market trends of others.

In tough economic times we also do without. Once we had the small farms, each with a few chickens, a cow or two and a large garden, and produced much of our own food. It was more a way of life than a living. But it was also a means for independence. Donald Waterfield saw the demise of these small holdings. We are living with the results.

That the physical appearance of the land would change is inevitable. The land is ever-changing and the beauty of today is soon replaced, hopefully by the beauty of tomorrow. Having never seen the valley with its lakes, winding river joining small farms and tiny settlements, the viewer of today may instead be struck by the magnificent mountain and lake scenery only somewhat diminished by the sight at low water. This is not Donald Waterfield’s land anymore, but it is what he predicted.


Arrow Lakes News