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Stakeholder Workshops Scheduled On Future Implementation Of U.S./Canada Columbia River Treaty
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2012 (PST)

The Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers have scheduled a round of public listening sessions/workshops related to the future implementation of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty.


The current treaty does not address modern-day dam operations not envisioned in 1964, such as boosting flows in the spring and summer to aid salmon and steelhead migration to and from the ocean.


The sessions are: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 27, Doubletree Hotel, Lloyd Center, 1000 NE Multnomah St. Portland, Ore.; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 9, Northern Quest Hotel100 N Hayford Road, Spokane, Wash.; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13, Owyhee Plaza Hotel, 1109 Main St., Boise, Idaho; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 18, Red Lion Inn, 20 North Main St. Kalispell, Mont. For more information see


The Columbia River Treaty is a water management agreement between the United States and Canada implemented in 1964 to optimize flood management and power generation through coordinated operations of reservoirs and water flows on the Columbia and Kootenay rivers on both sides of the border.


Under the treaty, the assured flood control operation the region has lived with for 50 years ends in 2024, to be replaced by something far less certain. The power system coordination provisions of the treaty could end in 2024 -- if either country gives 10 years’ advance notice.


So the first opportunity for either country to signal its intention is just two years away.


The treaty coordinates the operations of water-storage dams in British Columbia to maximize hydropower generation downstream in the United States and also provide flood control for the Portland/Vancouver area and other lower-river communities.


On-going studies are part of a multi-year effort by Bonneville, the Corps, and BC Hydro, British Columbia’s provincial electric utility, to understand the implications of various future options for the treaty — termination, continuation, and modification.


The effort is called the “2014/2024 Columbia River Treaty Review.”


Under the treaty, the administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwestern Division engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers comprise the “United States Entity” for treaty implementation.


BC Hydro is the “Canadian Entity” under the Treaty.


Before 2014, the entities will advise the governments of Canada and the United States regarding the future of the treaty.


In the future, reservoirs behind dams in both the United States and Canada could be operated much differently for purposes of flood control, putting at risk either flood control, beneficial operating conditions for fish and wildlife, or both, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.


“Flows and reservoir levels could change significantly, which could affect salmon, steelhead, and resident fish spawning, rearing and migration. Because of changes in reservoir operations, hydropower generation patterns could change dramatically from month to month, less in some places and times and more in others, with significant effects on the regional power system that will need to be accommodated,” said the Council in 2010.


According to the studies, without the treaty the annual average reduction in hydropower would be about 90 to 94 average megawatts. Currently that is enough power for about 57,000 Northwest homes — not a huge amount. But the monthly and seasonal changes are potentially much larger — 1,460 average megawatts in dry years in the summer, for example, an amount of power greater than the power consumption of Seattle today.


In Phase One of the 2014/2024 Treaty Review, Bonneville, the Corps, and BC Hydro conducted studies to provide fundamental information about post-2024 conditions both with and without the Treaty, and only from the limited perspective of power and flood control.


Bonneville and the Corps have completed a supplemental study that overlays river and dam operations required by Endangered Species Act biological opinions and other regulations on the results of the Phase One studies. The supplemental studies are important because they present a more realistic picture of current and future river operations under the various scenarios.


The studies are posted on the 2014/2024 Treaty Review website.


While the treaty has no specified end date, either Canada or the United States can terminate most provisions of the treaty on or after Sept. 16, 2024, with a minimum advance notice of 10 years. Thus, 2024 is the first year a notice of termination would take effect assuming written notice of termination is given by the Canadian or U.S. governments on or before Sept. 16, 2014.


Unless the two nations terminate or mutually modify the treaty, it continues indefinitely with one exception — the Treaty’s provisions for systematic flood control end in 2024 whether the treaty is terminated or not, to be replaced by provisions allowing for “called upon” flood control subject to a number of conditions.


Some facts about the treaty:


-- 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty established principles and procedures affecting boundary waters and created an International Joint Commission (IJC) to study/resolve issues relating to joint use of boundary waters.

-- 1944 U.S. and Canadian governments request IJC determine feasibility of developing Columbia River System.

-- 1945 Columbia River Engineering Board concludes that further development is both practicable and in public interest of both nations.

-- 1948 Memorial Day flood of 1948, with over 50 deaths and destruction of Vanport, Oregon’s 2nd largest city.

-- 1959 IJC recommends Principles for determining and apportioning benefits for the cooperative use of storage. Treaty negotiations begin.

-- 1961 Columbia River Treaty signed and ratified by U.S. Senate.

-- 1964 Treaty is ratified by Canada and implemented. Canadian “Entitlement”to U.S. power benefits sold for 30 years.

-- 1967 Duncan Dam is completed.

-- 1968 Arrow Dam (re-named Keenleyside) is completed.

-- 1973–Mica and Libby dams are completed.


The treaty: 


-- required Canada to build and operate three dams with 15.5 million acre-feet of storage on the Columbia and a tributary in Canada.


-- allowed the United States to construct and operate Libby dam with 5 MAF of storage on the Kootenai River in Montana for flood control and other purposes.


-- has Canadian storage reduce flood flows and spill, and shifts energy from low value time periods to high value time periods.


The treaty coordination between Canada and United States on power and flood control provides millions of dollars of annual mutual benefits across the Columbia River basin.


The treaty motivated infrastructure and governance development such as the electrical intertie to California, regional power preference legislation, added generators at most Columbia dams, and several regional power coordination agreements.


The Columbia River is the largest hydroelectric producing river on the continent and provides over 40 percent of the total electricity produced in British Columbia, Canada, and about 30 percent for the Pacific Northwest in the United States


As the Canadian dams were completed, the United States paid Canada $64.4 million for one-half the present worth of the expected future U.S. flood damages prevented from 1968 through 2024.


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