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Canada-US treaty on Columbia River dams up for renegotiation

The Columbia River Treaty is currently up for renegotiation and a ten-year termination clause that comes into effect in 2014 means the treaty could end in 2024.

In short, CBC explains, “The Columbia River Treaty, ratified in 1963, led to construction of four dams which flooded hundreds of kilometres of valley bottom in southeastern B.C. The treaty allows for cross border management of water in the Columbia River that flows 2,000 kilometres through B.C., Washington and Oregon.”

Some conflict is brewing on this issue. “Several western states are likely to tell the U.S. State Department and President Obama if they want the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty terminated or renegotiated to reflect changes since it was signed.”

The Associated Press adds, “The U.S. has paid Canada a one-time payment of $64 million for flood control for the first 60 years of the treaty. And annually, it sends Canada half the increased power generation at downstream U.S. hydropower dams. That increased power results from the operation of additional storage capacity created by the three dams built in Canada. …The United States’ position is that it should pay dramatically less for the benefits it gets through the treaty. …Canada hasn’t released a corresponding final negotiation stand, but a draft released earlier this year recommended the U.S. pay more in hydropower for getting recreational and other benefits under the Columbia River Treaty.”

Not noted in mainstream media reporting, Wikipedia notes, ‘The dams that were constructed in Canada resulted in the flooding of fertile land, forests and animal habitat, the loss of homes, the displacement of about 1400 people, and a flawed compensation process. The Sinixt people who lived by the Columbia River Valley for thousands of years, lost sacred burial grounds, an extremely devastating experience for their community.’

“The U.S. State Department and President Obama have final say on the treaty. The B.C. government hopes to make changes to the treaty without full termination.”

Council of Canadians Pacific regional organizer Ava Waxman has been working with the Columbia River Treaty Action Group which is very concerned about environmental impacts and would like to see this treaty terminated.

Further reading
Columbia River Treaty Action Group
Advocate for terminating Columbia River Treaty speaks up in Nakusp