The Columbia River Treaty is a trans-boundary water management agreement between the United States and Canada signed in 1961 and ratified in 1964.
The 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.
It does not have a specified end date and if either party wishes to terminate the Treaty it requires at least 10 years’ notice (on or before September 16, 2014 was the earliest either party could give 10 years’ notice).
The U.S. Entity is made up of the Bonneville Power Administration and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Canadian Entity is BC Hydro.
The 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.
The Province of British Columbia is the Canadian Entity to manage the Canadian Entitlement, Canada’s half share of the downstream power benefits.
Columbia River Treaty Benefits and Impacts are outlined in the 2012 report A Review of the Range of Impacts and Benefits of the Columbia River Treaty on Basin Communities, the Region and the Province.
The Columbia River Treaty prescribes two main types of flood risk management:
1 – Assured Annual Flood Control
Canada agreed to provide 8.45 million acre feet (increased to 8.95 million acre feet in 1995 due to a reallocation of storage from Arrow to Mica) of assured annual water storage for flood control purposes for 60 years at the three Treaty reservoirs [Duncan, Arrow Lakes (Keenleyside), and Kinbasket]. This expires automatically in 2024.
2 – On Call Flood Control
On Call Flood Control is intended to be used during periods of very high water inflows. Under certain specified conditions the United States can request that Canada provide On Call storage in addition to the Assured Annual Flood Control to prevent flooding. In this event, Canada would provide extra storage at Canadian reservoir
For each request the United States must pay the operating costs and any B.C. economic loss. This provision remains in effect as long as the Columbia River Treaty dams exist, even if the Columbia River Treaty is terminated.
As a result of the water flow management from B.C. storage reservoirs additional power can be generated in the United States. This power, is downstream power benefits. Downstream power benefits are computer modeled and calculated using procedures set out in the Treaty and are defined six years in advance. They are not calculated based on actual amount of downstream power generated. These benefits are shared equally between both countries.
Canada’s half-share of 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.
Under the Columbia River Treaty, the United States provides the Canadian Entitlement to British Columbia as energy and capacity, not money. Over the last ten years (2000-2010) the average annual Canadian Entitlement has been approximately 1320 megawatts capacity (about 11% of BC Hydro’s total capacity) and approximately 4540 gigawatt hours of energy.
Powerex sells the Canadian Entitlement at market value to either BC Hydro or utilities in Alberta or United States.
When the Columbia River Treaty was ratified in 1964, the Province of British 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. Those agreements expired in phases (1998-2003) and the Province now receives all of the Canadian Entitlement. The Canadian Entitlement is worth approximately $120 million annually, depending on power market prices, and goes into the Province’s general revenue account.
The Canadian Entitlement continues as long as the Columbia River Treaty is in place. If the Columbia River Treaty is terminated, the Canadian Entitlement ends.
Canadian Columbia River Treaty reservoir storage reduces flood flows in the United States and increases generation at United States hydroelectric projects by reducing spill and shifting energy generation to high value time periods, providing billions of dollars of power benefits.
Columbia River Treaty dams more than doubled the amount of Columbia River basin reservoir storage. Canadian reservoir storage reduces the need to make use of reservoirs at United States’ dams to manage spring flood risks, fish protection and other needs. For an overview of the benefits to the United States from the Columbia River Treaty see: U.S. Benefits from the Columbia River Treaty – Past, Present and Future: A Province of British Columbia Perspective
The Columbia Basin Trust is a Crown corporation that was created in 1995 to support social, economic and environmental well-being in the Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin – the region most affected by the Columbia River Treaty and the Columbia River Treaty dams.
In recognition of these impacts, the Province established the Columbia Basin Trust under the Columbia Basin Trust Act and provided an endowment of $321 million: $276 million to invest in hydroelectric projects, $45 million endowment to invest in other projects or for loans, as well as $2 million per year from 1996 to 2010 for operations.
The Columbia Basin Trust manages the endowment through its Investment Program which provides funding for its Delivery of Benefits activities. Currently, the Columbia Basin Trust provides over $50 million annually in support of the efforts of the people of the Columbia River Basin to create a legacy of social, economic, and environmental well-being and to achieve greater self-sufficiency for present and future generations.
In 1994, the Province formed the Columbia Power Corporation to hold expansion rights to both the Brilliant Dam and Waneta Dam purchased from Teck Cominco Metals Ltd.
British Columbia committed to provide $250 million over a ten-year period for the development of three power projects in the Columbia Basin, in partnership with Columbia Basin Trust.
These projects were: the addition of power generation at Hugh Keenleyside Dam, owned by BC Hydro, and the expansion of generating capacities at Brilliant Dam and Waneta Dam.
The partners purchased Brilliant Dam from Teck Cominco in 1996. The Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust partnership, along with FortisBC, completed the 335 MW Waneta Expansion Project.
The Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program compensates for the impacts to fish, wildlife and their supporting habitats affected by BC Hydro owned and operated generation facilities. The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program is delivered through a joint partnership that includes BC Hydro, the Province and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Since 1995, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program has invested about $4 million annually in fish and wildlife projects in the Columbia Region.
The approximately 600 conservation and enhancement projects are delivered with the support of partners including, First Nations, businesses, local communities and environmental groups and are approved each year by a regional steering committee.
Columbia River Treaty Review
Either Canada or the US can unilaterally terminate most of the provisions of the Columbia River Treaty anytime after September 16, 2024, providing at least ten years’ notice is given.
The latest date to provide termination notice for September 2024 was September 2014.
Government agencies in both Canada and the United States have examined future Columbia River Treaty options. The Ministry of Energy and Mines Columbia River Treaty Review Team is leading the Province’s Review.
Between 2012 -2014, the Review Team conducted an analysis of the economic, environmental, social, financial, legal and hydrological impacts of the Columbia River Treaty in order to make a comprehensive decision on continuation, amendment or termination of the Treaty. Consultations with Columbia River Basin residents and First Nations were conducted. The Province also sought to understand United States’ interests.
The Canada-British Columbia Agreement (1963) transferred most Columbia River Treaty benefits, rights and obligations to the Province.
The Columbia River Treaty and related responsibilities and obligations for Canada and British Columbia are as follows:
|Jurisdiction||Columbia River Treaty||Non-Treaty|
|Recipient of Treaty Benefits, responsible for Treaty obligations||Licensing water users|
|Responsible for management of Treaty reservoirs||Water quality standards|
|Owner of BC Hydro (Canadian Entity) and power generation||Regulation of power generation|
|Impact mitigation||Management of natural resources|
|Nominates a member of Permanent Engineering Board, which reviews and reports on operations under the Treaty|
|Signatory to Treaty||Trans-boundary waters|
|Approval of changes to Treaty||Canada-US relations|
|Appoint Canadian Permanent Engineering Board members|
International treaties like the Columbia River Treaty are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Canada-British Columbia Agreement (1963) allocated most Columbia River Treaty rights, benefits and obligations to the Province.
The Canada – British Columbia Agreement requires Canada to obtain the concurrence of the Province before amending or terminating the Columbia River Treaty.
British Columbia and Canada have, and continue, to work very closely to ensure that any changes to the Treaty are in the best interests of Canadians and British Columbians.
The Columbia River Treaty has no specified expiration date. Either Canada or the United States can unilaterally terminate the Columbia River Treaty any time after 16 September 2024, provided written notice is filed at least 10 years in advance. On or before September 16, 2014 was the earliest either party could give 10 years’ notice.
Both British Columbia and the United States are considering options to determine whether or not to give notice. Regardless of this, 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 management.
The Columbia River Treaty Review included consultation with First Nations, and engagement of stakeholder groups and the public, including youth. The Ministry of Energy and Mines Columbia River Treaty Review Team worked closely with the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee, to understand and consider their constituents’ views.
The Columbia River Treaty Review Team also worked with the Federal government and other provincial agencies to ensure a streamlined, effective approach to the Review.
First Nation consultation is a key component of the Columbia River Treaty Review and was a separate government-to-government consultation process with each First Nation. The Province is continuing to engage with First Nations on the future of the Treaty.
Canada and BC have signed an Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate Aboriginal consultations as part of the Review. This consultation process helped inform Canada and BC’s recommendations to decision makers.
BC Hydro is the Canadian Entity responsible for the implementation of the Columbia River Treaty and the operator of the Columbia River Treaty dams in Canada.
BC Hydro is working closely with the Ministry of Energy and Mines Columbia River Treaty Review Team and is providing technical support to the Columbia River Treaty review process.
The Canada-British Columbia Agreement (1963) transferred most treaty rights and obligations to the Province.
Although this agreement retains Canada’s constitutional jurisdiction for international treaties, it requires Canada to obtain the concurrence of the Province before terminating or amending the Columbia River Treaty.
Canada and British Columbia are cooperating in the review and any future decisions.
The federal government supports British Columbia’s lead procedural role in the Columbia River Treaty Review, however each government will have their own decision making process.
The Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers are responsible for implementing the Columbia River Treaty on behalf of the United States.
They conducted a multi-year review process, the 2014/2024 Columbia River Treaty Review, to consider options in advance of 2014 in order to be able to make a recommendation to the United States Department of State on whether or not to give notice to terminate the Columbia River Treaty.
Information on the 2014/2024 Columbia River Treaty Review can be found at http://www.crt2014-2024review.gov/Default.aspx
Columbia River Treaty Review Public Engagement
Columbia River Treaty Review public engagement was intended to be a meaningful and constructive process informed by the following principles:
- Inclusive, Transparent and Honest
- Consult on the design of the public engagement process in consideration of participants’ needs, local methods of participation and representation, and logistical constraints.
- Encourage open sharing of all relevant perspectives and respect all related viewpoints, information, experiences, interests, values and contributions.
- Include as many individuals as wish to participate in the process, and provide various ways to participate and be heard, including face-to-face meetings, by mail and online.
- Be clear with participants about their roles, constraints and opportunities to provide input into the decision process.
- Create Capacity to Participate
- Provide participants with as much information as possible to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to participate in the consultation process
- Constructive Engagement
- Build on previous or existing processes.
- Listen, learn, provide clarity and address misunderstandings.
- Encourage high quality dialogue that recognizes all related interests, deepens understanding and builds relationships.
- Use diverse methods to ensure participants are engaged, share information, and provide feedback.
- Ensure an authentic process where public input will be considered by decision makers.
- Close the Loop
- Inform participants how their input was considered.
The Columbia River Treaty Review Team reviewed residents’ values and interests articulated in past community engagements on water management issues in the Columbia River Basin.
These include the Water Use Planning process (2000-2007) and the Non-Treaty Storage Agreement consultations (2011) carried out by BC Hydro, and the recent Columbia Basin Trust community information sessions on the Columbia River Treaty (2011-12).
We acknowledge the considerable time and effort invested in previous engagement processes and built on the information already gathered in carrying out the Columbia River Treaty Review public consultation process.
We engaged through this website, community meetings and a youth event. See the Columbia River Treaty Review Public Consultation Report for full details on the Public Engagement process.
Click here for ways to stay engaged on the Columbia River Treaty Review and potential future Treaty negotiations.
The Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee was formed in 2011. The regional districts of Central Kootenay, Columbia Shuswap, East Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary each appointed two members to the committee. The Village of Valemount and the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments each appointed one member.
The Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee worked with the Columbia Basin Trust to create education and awareness activities in the region. They helped the Province understand regional views, values and interests with respect to the Columbia River Treaty.
In December 2013, the Local Governments’ Committee submitted their recommendations on the Columbia River Treaty to the provincial and federal governments for incorporation into the current decisions regarding the future of the CRT. For more information, visit their website: http://akblg.ca/content/columbia-river-treaty