British Columbia wants changes in Columbia River pact with U.S

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 13, 2014 4:38 PM

By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Canadian province of British Columbia said on Thursday it wants to keep a 50-year-old Canada-U.S. pact on Columbia River flood control and power generation in place, but it urged the federal government to push for what it called improvements.

The announcement of the Pacific Coast province's stance on renewing the Columbia River Treaty, which has been in effect since 1964, came three months after the agencies leading a U.S. review of the pact recommended that Washington continue the agreement, but that it reduce the payments it makes to Canada under the treaty.

The Columbia River, one of North America's largest rivers by volume, has its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies and flows 2,000 km (1,250 miles) through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Although the treaty has no specified end date, either side can give notice of termination as early as mid-September this year. The actual termination would, however, only come into effect 10 years later.

"We believe continuing the Columbia River Treaty while exploring how improvements could benefit both countries is the best strategy moving forward for B.C., Canada and the United States," British Columbia's energy and mines minister, Bill Bennett, said in a statement.

The provincial government said residents of southeastern British Columbia, where three dams were built under the agreement, support ongoing environmental improvements "through further investments in compensation and mitigation programs".

It also said that there was an increasing awareness of climate change and that plans to deal with the impact of global warming should be taken into account in making decisions on treaty management in the future.

In exchange for building and operating the dams mandated by the treaty in Canada, Ottawa received an upfront payment of about C$64 million ($57 million) from the United States. The United States paid for the dams to be built.

The pact entitles Canada to half of the hydroelectric generation capability at U.S. power plants on the Columbia River that results directly from the dams that were built in British Columbia.

In their recommendation in December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration, which are leading the treaty review in the United States, said the financial formula developed in the 1960s will result in Canada's share of U.S. power generation being "significantly greater than anticipated" 10 years from now.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)