“U.S. Entity” – comprised of top officials of the Bonneville Power
Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials – has sent a final
regional recommendation concerning the future of the Columbia River Treaty to
the U.S. Department of State.
recommendation to strike up negotiations with Canada regarding a renewal of the
treaty sets out numerous goals for such discussions, such as re-evaluation what
monetary “entitlement” should be send north of the border to pay for benefits
received south of the border, and whether ecosystem considerations, such as
salmon restoration needs, should be part of any new agreement.
treaty between the two countries was signed in 1961, with implementation
beginning in 1964. The treaty primarily aimed at reducing flood risk
downstream, through the construction of water storage facilities in Canada and
northwest Montana, and supporting hydropower generation.
storage reservoirs on the Columbia River system were built as a result of the
treaty -- Duncan, Mica and Keenleyside (also known as Arrow) in British
Columbia and Libby in northwest Montana. They doubled the amount of water that
could be stored, adding 15.5 million acre-feet of capacity. The treaty called
for the United States to pre-pay Canada, a total of $64 million, as each
Canadian treaty dam was put into operation.
and the U.S. agreed that the increased annual power generation benefits created
by the treaty at the downstream U.S. dams were to be shared equally.
benefit is determined using theoretical calculations agreed to by the original
treaty authors, and the Canadian share of the power generation, known as the
“Canadian Entitlement,” is delivered from the United States to Canada. Because
the power was not immediately needed to serve its demand, Canada sold the first
30 years of the Canadian Entitlement to a U.S. consortium of utilities for $254
million in 1964,” according to background information posted on the U.S.
Entities’ web site.
value of the Canadian Entitlement, combined with pre-payment for flood risk
management, helped finance Duncan, Keenleyside and Mica dams. Now that the
30-year contracts have expired, the U.S. delivers the Canadian Entitlement
energy to BC Hydro over Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines. BPA
estimates that this energy entitlement is worth between $250 million and $350
million a year.”
Department of State will use the final recommendation to begin a federal policy
review process to determine whether to proceed with negotiations regarding
changes to the 50-year-old treaty, or to terminate the agreement with Canada.
recommendation from the Canadian Entity, led by BC Hydro, is expected before
month’s end. But that advice will not be disclosed publicly until the British
Columbia Cabinet decides how it would like to proceed – negotiate new terms for
the treaty, or terminate, according to Kathy Eichenberger of the province’s
Ministry of Energy and Mines. Eichenberger is executive director for the
Columbia River Treaty Review for British Columbia.
three years of collaboration with a wide variety of interests in the region, we
believe we are recommending a win-win approach to the future of the Columbia
River Treaty that will be broadly supported by the people of the Pacific
Northwest,” said Elliot Mainzer, acting BPA administrator and chair of the U.S.
U.S. Entity, consisting of the BPA administrator and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers Northwestern Division engineer, is charged with formulating and
carrying out the operating arrangements necessary to implement the Columbia
U.S. Entity “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River
Treaty After 2024” was developed by the U.S. Entity in collaboration and
consultation with the region’s four states, federally recognized tribes and a
variety of stakeholders through an extensive, multiyear process known as the
Columbia River Treaty Review.
appreciate the extensive involvement and input of the region in developing a
recommendation that reflects the region’s many important interests for
consideration by the State Department and the Administration,” said Brig. Gen.
John Kem, commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division and U.S. Entity member.
final recommendation submits that the Pacific Northwest and the nation would
benefit from “modernization” of the treaty post-2024. It begins by identifying
regional goals for the future of the Treaty post-2024. It includes general
principles underlying this recommendation, followed by more specific
recommendations related to several Treaty elements. It also identifies matters
related to possible post-2024 Treaty implementation for consideration through
final U.S. Entity recommendation supports a modernized treaty that would
better address the region’s interest in a reliable and economically sustainable
hydropower system and reflect a more reasonable assessment of the value of
coordinated power operations with Canada;
continue to provide a similar level of flood risk management to protect public
safety and the region’s economy;
include ecosystem-based function as one of the primary purposes of the treaty;
create flexibility within the treaty to respond to climate change, changing
water supply needs and other potential future changes in system operations
while continuing to meet authorized purposes such as navigation and irrigation.
U.S. Entity recommendations note that, as a result of a three-year process
involving discussions with stakeholders, that there is an “increasing awareness
in the region that an imbalance has developed in the equitable sharing of the
downstream power benefits resulting from the treaty.
the Treaty was ratified, the United States and Canada structured Canada’s share
of these benefits as one-half of the downstream power benefits with the
Canadian Treaty projects as compared to without those projects. An equitable
sharing of these benefits should instead be based on the more realistic measure
of the power value of coordinated operations as compared to non-coordinated
operations,” the recommendations say.
on the present formula developed in the 1960s, the estimated value of the
Canadian share of the downstream benefits in 2024 is significantly greater than
anticipated, and far exceeds the value of coordinated power operations under
the original treaty, either Canada or the United States may unilaterally
terminate most provisions of the treaty as early as September 2024, with a
minimum of 10 years’ notice; hence the focus on 2014 and 2024.
that the final recommendation has been delivered to the U.S. Department of
State, the U.S. government will formally take up the question of the Columbia
River Treaty. That process will be a federal, interagency review under the
general direction of the National Security Council on behalf of the president.
The Department of State has been designated as the agency to coordinate and
oversee this process on behalf of the National Security Council.
read the final recommendation, and for more information on the Columbia River
Treaty Review, go to www.crt2014-2024review.gov.
that have been engaged during those three years of discussions all agree that
the treaty should be reworked, not terminated.
Rep Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has bird-dogged the process, including listening to
testimony earlier this month at a House Natural Resources Committee field
hearing in Pasco. Hastings is chairman of that committee.
I continue to have concerns about aspects of the recommendation related to
ecosystem issues, I’m pleased that the U.S. Entity made significant
improvements in the final draft by focusing on post-2024 flood control
operations and the reduction of the Canadian entitlement and by reflecting
greater input from irrigation and navigation interests,” Hastings said.
this process moves to the State Department, I will continue to work with my
colleagues to ensure that addressing these issues with Canada is made a
priority and that there is ongoing engagement from all regional stakeholders –
not just governmental entities.”
tribes, conservation groups and the fishing community called on the U.S. State
Department to move forward with modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.
modernization of the Columbia River Treaty is in the best interest of our
region, the United States, and everyone who relies on the Columbia River,”
according to Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal
Fish Commission. “There appears to be broad level support from the tribes for
the recommendation. The tribes are committed to working with the U.S.
Department of State to ensure that a modernized Columbia River Treaty is
are pleased to see that the ecosystem is included in the recommendation as a
new pillar to the Columbia River Treaty. The tribes also look forward to
working with the First Nations of Canada to restore fish passage to all
historic locations,” Lumley said.
construction of dams in the United States and Canada have blocked access to
historic habitats in the upper Columbia for salmon and steelhead and other
species. The Columbia headwaters are in Canada. The river flows south into
Washington and then west along the Oregon-Washington border to the Pacific
written, the recommendation includes a public process to explore innovative
ways to manage river flows and flood risk management. This promise of a public
process is essential to maintaining the tribes’ broad level support for the
current recommendation and is a critical next step for the citizens of the
Columbia Basin,” Lumley said.
is a citizen of the Yakama Nation and a member of the Columbia River Treaty
Sovereign Review Team.
power interests agree with the need to reassess the Canadian entitlement terms,
but urge caution regarding suggested expansions of the treaty to include
primary objective of engaging in any Treaty negotiations with Canada must be
focused on correcting the current inequity of the U.S. obligation under the
Canadian Entitlement, and providing a significant net benefit to the region’s
consumers,” Public Power Council Executive Director Scott Corwin said during
the recent congressional hearing on the topic. PPC represents consumer-owned
electric utilities of the Pacific Northwest that purchase power and
transmission marketed by BPA. Member utilities have service territories with
consumers in portions of eight western states.
is also a member of the Columbia River Treaty Power Group, consisting of over
80 electric utilities, industry associations and other entities that depend on
power produced by the Columbia River hydropower generating plants.
evolved quite a bit in the past 50 years,” Corwin said. A lot of the
assumptions on which the original treaty were built are outdated.
sum, the U.S. obligation under the Entitlement far exceeds the actual power
benefit received,” Corwin said. “If the treaty continued using the current
calculations for the Canadian Entitlement, by 2025 the U.S. would be returning
to Canada about 450 average megawatts of clean hydropower and 1,300 megawatts
of capacity each year, valued at approximately $250 to $350 million annually
(not to mention its value for system operations and reliability).” Those costs
are added to ratepayers’ bills.
electric customers are likely to provide well over $2 billion in benefits to
Canada over the next 10 years alone, despite the U.S. Entity’s own estimate
that the actual annual value of this benefit to the U.S. is only in the range
of $25 to $30 million (i.e., only one-tenth of the current Canadian Entitlement
inequity is unsustainable,” according to Corwin’s testimony.
said that PPC and other members of the Treaty Power Group have stated that, “to
the extent a modernized Treaty is to address ecosystem matters, adequate
recognition of and accounting for efforts already under way is critical.”
Billions of dollars, mostly from BPA through revenues electricity ratepayers,
has already been spent to improve fish and wildlife, particularly for salmon
and steelheed listed under the Endangered Species Act.
groups have focused on the ecosystem options.
is solid, broad-based support among Northwest states, tribes, businesses and
citizens to promptly begin formal talks with Canada to modernize the
half-century-old Columbia River Treaty for tomorrow's Northwest,” said Pat Ford
of Save Our Wild Salmon. “Conservationists and fishermen urge Secretary of
State Kerry to take the next needed step.
assessing the regional recommendation, we urge him in turn to recommend to the
White House that talks with our Canadian counterparts begin in 2014. At the
same time, federal agencies, communities and people have work to do on our side
of the border,” Ford said. “We need to initiate a thorough public review of how
to modernize flood risk management in the Columbia Basin, and we should add a
government or agency with natural resource and climate change expertise to the
federal team that implements the Columbia River Treaty."
federal agencies have recommended that the State Department include restoring
the ecosystem as a primary driver of an updated treaty, co-equal to hydropower
and flood control, a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international
water management,” Ford said. “All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin
tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation. Opposing
the federal agencies’ recommendations is the utility caucus, called the Treaty
Power Group, which wants to offload costs relating to the treaty to decrease
electricity rates – already some of the lowest rates in the United States.”
are excited to see the U.S. agencies recommend discussion of fish passage on
the Columbia mainstem as part of a modernized treaty,” said Rachael Paschal
Osborn of the Columbia Institute for Water Policy. “This will benefit citizens,
recreation and commercial fishers, Tribes and First Nations to restore salmon
to the Upper Columbia.”
more information see:
CBB, Dec. 12, 2013, “House Natural Resources Committee Holds Pasco Field
Hearing On Revising Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429269.aspx
CBB, Nov. 27, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Prompts Discussion Of Restoring
Salmon Passage To Canadian Headwaters” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429144.aspx
CBB, Nov. 1, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Will Impact Libby Dam
Operations, Reservoir Drafting/Refill” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428897.aspx
CBB, Oct. 18, 2013, “B.C. Releases Draft Columbia River Treaty Recommendations,
Wants Full Accounting Of U.S. Benefits” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428719.aspx
CBB, Sept. 27, 2013, “U.S. Releases Draft Recommendations For ‘Modernizing’
Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428444.aspx
CBB, Aug. 16, 2013, “Environmentalists Say Columbia River Treaty Needs To
Expand To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Functions”’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/427918.aspx
CBB, Aug. 9, 2013, “Utilities Group Expresses Concern With Columbia River
Treaty Draft Recommendations, Process, Scope” http://www.cbbulletin.com/427854.aspx