Sept. 16, marked the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the Columbia River
Treaty, an international agreement between Canada and the United States that
was created with the goal of developing Columbia River water uses –
specifically for power generation and flood control -- for the benefit of both
trans-boundary water management agreement was signed in 1961 and ratified in
treaty has no specified expiration date. Either Canada or the United States can
unilaterally terminate the Columbia River Treaty any time after Sept. 16, 2024,
provided written notice is filed at least 10 years in advance.
suggests a “notice date” of Sept 16, 2014, but notice could have been done
earlier and can be done later.
British Columbia and the United States are considering options to determine
whether or not to give notice. Regardless, Assured Annual Flood Control expires
automatically in 2024 and converts in 2024 to a Called Upon operation of
Canadian storage space as may be needed by the United States for flood risk
treaty optimizes flood management and power generation, requiring coordinated
operations of reservoirs and water flows for the Columbia River and Kootenay
River on both sides of the border.
Columbia River Treaty has been a significant driver behind diverse economic,
public safety and ecological uses of the Columbia River, according to the
so-called U.S. Entity.
a direct result of the treaty, four storage dams were built: Mica, Arrow and
Duncan dams in British Columbia, Canada; and Libby Dam in Montana. The
Columbia’s headwaters are in British Columbia. The river flows south into
Washington, then west along the Oregon-Washington border to the Pacific.
Tributaries from British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
and Wyoming feed the Columbia-Snake river system.
four projects more than doubled the storage capacity of the Columbia River
system, increased control of the river flow, thereby decreasing the risk of
major flooding events downstream, and provided opportunities for releasing
water at times needed for power generation and other downstream benefits such
as fisheries and water supply.
the past 50 years, treaty operations have helped prevent major flood damages
and provide for economic development across the basin.
U.S. Entity, which consists of the administrator of the Bonneville Power
Administration 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 River Treaty in concert with
the Canadian Entity.
appreciate the extensive coordination and collaboration we’ve enjoyed with BPA
and the Canadian Entity on this important treaty over the past 50 years,” said
Brig. Gen. John Kem, commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division, “This
extensive cooperation with Canada and U.S. regional interests has allowed us to
achieve common treaty goals and also to respond to the changing needs in the
Columbia River Basin,” added Elliot Mainzer, BPA administrator.
to build on the past success of the treaty, the U.S. Entity led a three-year
review process that culminated in a regional recommendation regarding the
future of the Treaty. That recommendation, available at www.crt2014-2024review.gov, was delivered to the U.S.
Department of State Dec. 13, 2013, and is now undergoing a formal review by the
stated goal of the regional recommendation is for both countries to develop a
modernized Treaty framework that reflects the actual value of coordinated power
operations with Canada, maintains an acceptable level of flood risk and
supports a resilient and healthy ecosystem-based function throughout the
Columbia River Basin,” according to a Dec. 13 letter signed by Kem and Mainzer
that was sent to U.S. and Canadian officials. “It is important to achieve a
modernized framework for the treaty that balances power production, flood risk
management, and ecosystem-based function as the primary purposes addressed in
the treaty, while also meeting other congressionally authorized purposes of the
U.S. projects, such as irrigation and navigation.
recommendation includes general principles, followed by topic specific
recommendations for a modernized treaty. In addition to the regional
recommendation, we have included a section that identifies domestic matters for
consideration by U.S. domestic interests to be addressed post-2013.”
recommendation to the U.S. president 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
Canadian governmental entities are considering their stance on the treaty, with
concerns about the apportionment of benefits.
Sept. 16, 1964, British Columbia Premier W.A.C. Bennett, Prime Minister Lester
B. Pearson and United States President Lyndon B. Johnson met at the
International Peace Arch Boundary at Blaine Washington and Surrey, B.C. and
ratified the Columbia River Treaty.
the treaty is known throughout the world as one of the most successful models
of trans-boundary water management,” Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett
said this week.
the Treaty dams - Duncan, Arrow (now Keenleyside), Mica and Libby -- were
constructed there has never been a flood causing major damage along the
Columbia River. Co-ordination under the treaty allows the hydroelectric system
to respond to seasonal challenges during both high and low flow periods,”
Bennett said. “Hydro power generated by the dams provides clean, reliable and
renewable energy throughout British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.
as we mark the anniversary of the treaty it is also important to acknowledge
the historic and continuing impacts. Two-hundred and seventy thousand hectares
of Canadian ecosystems were inundated. Residents and communities were displaced
and economic opportunities lost,” the premier said. “Treaty operations continue
to impact the Columbia basin where some reservoirs fluctuate by as much as
47metres (155 feet).
March 2014, informed by a two-year treaty review process that included
extensive public and First Nations consultation, the government of British
Columbia announced its decision to continue the Columbia Treaty and seek
improvements within its existing framework.
primary goal of the treaty from our perspective is to create and equitably
share benefits from trans-boundary co-operation with the United States,
recognizing that British Columbia is impacted by treaty operations. We have
identified 14 principles that will guide British Columbia in any discussions on
the future of the treaty with Canada and the United States,” Bennett said.
the United States a federal interagency review of the treaty continues under
the direction of the National Security Council on behalf of the president of
the United States.
B.C. we continue to engage with First Nations, residents and elected officials
in the Columbia Basin, we’re in discussions with the Government of Canada on
developing a collaborative approach to any future negotiations, and we’re
working to ensure U.S. stakeholders, legislators and decision makers understand
British Columbia’s perspectives and principles on the treaty.
Columbia River Treaty has shaped lives and communities in the Columbia River
basin and around our entire province for 50 years. We’re committed to working
collaboratively with all Treaty partners to achieve improvements in the treaty
and make it better for future generations.”
Canadian Entity is BC Hydro.
Columbia River Treaty is implemented by the entities. Together, they work
cooperatively and are responsible for the daily operations of the reservoirs
and hydroelectric facilities.
Province of British Columbia is the Canadian Entity to manage the Canadian
Entitlement, Canada’s half share of the downstream power benefits.
the Columbia River Treaty, Canada (British Columbia) agreed to build three dams
[Duncan (1967), Arrow/Hugh Keenleyside (1968) and Mica (1973)], and in return
received benefits based on the additional flood control and power generation
potential. British Columbia received an upfront one-time payment of $64 million
for 60 years of assured flood control.
half share of the additional power that could be generated in the United States
as a result of the dams, the downstream power benefits, is called the Canadian
Entitlement. Under the 1963 Canada-British Columbia Agreement, these benefits
are owned by the Province of British Columbia.
Columbia sold the first 30 years of the Canadian Entitlement to a consortium of
utilities in the United States for $254 million and used the money to finance
the construction of the three Columbia River Treaty dams.
Canadian Entitlement continues as long as the Columbia River Treaty is in
place. If the Columbia River Treaty is terminated, the Canadian Entitlement
Columbia River Treaty also provided for the construction of the Libby dam
(1973) in Montana and the resulting reservoir, Lake Koocanusa, stretches back
68 kilometres into British Columbia.
Libby dam regulates water flow on the Kootenay River, the major uppermost
tributary of the Columbia River. The obligation to regulate water flow on the
Kootenay River continues indefinitely, even if the Columbia River Treaty is
in the early 1990s, other agreements under the Columbia River Treaty have been
put in place to serve additional values such as managing water flow for fish
and for recreation.
more information, see:
CBB, March 21, 2014, “British Columbia Announces Decision To Continue Columbia
River Treaty While Seeking ‘Improvements’” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430094.aspx
CBB, Feb. 28, 2014 “15 Basin Tribes, Canadian First Nations Issue Report On
Restoring Upper Columbia Salmon Passage” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429847.aspx
CBB, Dec. 20, 2013, “Final Recommendations For Revising Columbia River Treaty
With Canada Sent To State Department” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429315.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