What is it?
The 1964 Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is an international agreement between Canada and the United States to coordinate flood control and optimize hydroelectric energy production on both sides of the border.
What is the Trust's role?
The Trust’s primary role in regards to the CRT is to act as an information resource for Basin residents, First Nations and local governments. The Trust is also working with provincial and federal government agencies to provide advice on meaningful consultation processes with Basin residents and local governments on any process to amend, renew or terminate the CRT or any of its related sub-agreements.
The Trust is not a decision-maker with regards to the CRT and we are not advocating for any specific future outcomes, other than to ensure Basin residents are meaningfully consulted through the process.
What's happening now?
Negotiations between Canada and the United states to modernize the Columbia River Treaty began on May 29, 2018.
The year 2024 was the earliest either Canada or the U.S. could have terminated the Columbia River Treaty provided 10 years’ advance notice was given in 2014. Both countries undertook extensive consultations during their respective reviews of the current CRT.
On December 13, 2013, the U.S. Entity made its final recommendations to the U.S. federal government. It recommended a modern treaty framework that balances power production, flood control and ecosystem functions. The U.S. will coordinate a review on behalf of the President of the United States.
On March 14, 2014, the Province of BC announced its decision to continue the Columbia River Treaty and seek improvements within its existing framework. Fourteen principles will guide future discussion and, among others, include equitable sharing of benefits from transboundary coordination and recognizing that BC is impacted by CRT operations.
Why does it matter?
Decisions about the future of the CRT could influence how Canada operates local dams and reservoirs for power, flood control and other values, including the environment. Those changes could impact, among other things, water levels, annual payments from the U.S. to BC, and the amount of hydroelectricity generated in the Columbia Basin.
How do I get involved?
If you have a question that is not answered here, visit the Provincial Columbia River Treaty website.
- After a major flood in 1948, Canada and the United States started thinking about cooperative water management on the Columbia River.
- Both countries had growing populations and an increasing need for energy.
- The Columbia River Treaty was ratified in 1964.
- The main benefits are hydroelectricity production and flood control.
- The Mica, Hugh Keenleyside and Duncan dams were built in British Columbia. Libby dam was built in Montana.
- The dams created large reservoirs which flooded valley bottoms and displaced approximately 2,300 people in the Canadian portion of the Columbia Basin.
- The Columbia River Treaty does not have an expiry date. The first chance for either country to terminate the Columbia River Treaty is in 2024, with a minimum of 10 years’ notice.
- On March 14, 2014 the Province of BC announced its decision to continue the Columbia River Treaty and seek improvements within its existing framework. The U.S. Entity announced its recommendation for a modern Treaty framework in December 2013. Read more.
- Current Assured Annual Flood Control provisions expire in 2024. Learn more.
- Columbia Basin Trust was created to benefit the areas most adversely affected by the Columbia River Treaty.
Columbia River Treaty Overview
What is the Columbia River Treaty?
The Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is an international agreement between Canada and the U.S. for the joint development, regulation and management of the Columbia River in order to coordinate flood control and optimize electrical energy production on both sides of the border.
The CRT has no official expiry date, but has a minimum length of 60 years, which is met in September 2024. It is possible that one or both countries may wish to renegotiate parts or all of the CRT, or terminate it entirely.
Learn more. Read An Overview: Columbia River Treaty
Why was the CRT signed?
The Challenge: Canada and the U.S. were facing two major challenges in the Columbia River Basin (Basin) after WWII. In addition to an increasing population, the “untamed” Columbia River was causing periodic and sometimes devastating flooding. Simultaneously, an upswing in the economy increased the need for energy sources.
The Solution: In order to meet these challenges the two countries ratified the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) in 1964. The purpose of the CRT is to coordinate flood control and optimize hydroelectric energy production in the Basin on both sides of the border. Under the CRT, Canada agreed to build three storage dams in Canada: Hugh Keenleyside, Duncan and Mica. The CRT also allowed the U.S. to build the Libby dam in Montana which created a reservoir that flooded back into Canada. With a minimum of 10 years written advance notice, either Canada or the U.S. may terminate the CRT any time on or after September 16, 2024. Either country may give notice earlier than 2014, but 2024 is the earliest date for termination. By mutual agreement both sides could potentially amend the terms of the CRT at any time. Under the CRT, the U.S. paid in advance for 60 years of Assured Annual Flood Control operations. This sub-agreement expires in 2024, whether the CRT is terminated or not.
Why does the Columbia River Treaty matter?
The decision to implement the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) transformed the geography and social fabric of the Columbia River Basin in Canada. Since its ratification in 1964 the CRT has influenced the management of the Columbia and Kootenay River systems in both Canada and the United States. Any decisions about the future of the CRT will shape transboundary water management across the entire Columbia Basin for decades to come.
The CRT provides many benefits to both countries. The Columbia River System in Canada provides 50 per cent of the hydroelectricity in BC. In addition, the Canadian Entitlement to downstream power benefits is currently valued at approximately $150–$300 million US each year and that revenue belongs to the Province of BC. The CRT also provides flood control benefits in the Canadian and US portions of the Columbia Basin protecting cities such as Portland, Oregon and Trail, BC from major floods.
Although there are benefits, there were also many negative impacts as a result of the CRT, most of which occurred in the Canadian portion of the Columbia Basin. Impacts include, but are not limited to, the flooding of approximately 600 km2 fertile and productive valley bottoms to fill the Arrow Lakes, Duncan, Kinbasket and Koocanusa reservoirs; re-location of about 2,300 people from their homes and communities along the Arrow Lakes, Duncan and Koocanusa reservoirs; the loss of First Nations’ cultural sites; and changes to ecosystems, impacting fish and wildlife values and reducing habitat availability.
The year 2024 is the earliest date either Canada or the United States may terminate the CRT providing 10-years advance notice is given (2014). At this time no decision has been made by either country to terminate, renegotiate or modify the terms of the current CRT. Given the importance of CRT issues, both countries are completing ongoing studies and are considering the future of the CRT.
Residents in the Columbia Basin, on both sides of the border, will be directly affected by any decision related to the future of the CRT. It is important that residents be involved in the process and prepare to engage in positive and productive dialogue on the future of the CRT.
Video: Why Does it Matter?
Elected officials talk about why the Columbia River Treaty matters. (3 mins)
Who implements the Columbia River Treaty?
To ensure the provisions of the CRT are met, entities from both countries were appointed to implement the CRT on behalf of their governments. The U.S. entities are the Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Under the Canada–BC Agreement, Canada’s federal government passed on most CRT rights, obligations and benefits to BC and the Province designated BC Hydro as the Canadian entity. The Permanent Engineering Board (PEB), consisting of representatives from Canadian and U.S. federal agencies and the Province of BC, oversees operations and reports to governments on whether CRT obligations are being met.
Why are 2014 and 2024 important dates?
The years 2014 and 2024 are key dates for the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) for two reasons:
- The year 2024 is the earliest date either Canada or the U.S. may unilaterally terminate most provisions of the CRT, provided a minimum of 10 years’ advance notice is given (2014).
- The Assured Annual Flood Control provision of the CRT expires automatically in 2024 and flood control specified under the CRT changes to a Called Upon operation.
2024: Either Country May Terminate
The CRT is an evergreen agreement and has no official expiry date, but has a minimum length of 60 years, which is met in September 16, 2024. It is possible that one or both countries may wish to renegotiate or terminate some of the CRT effective on or after this date. Both countries may also consider mutual improvements for the implementation of the CRT.
If neither country provides notice to terminate, the CRT will continue indefinitely, with the exception of the Assured Annual Flood Control provision.
Under the CRT, the U.S. paid $64.4 million US in advance for operation of the Assured Annual Flood Control through to 2024. This arrangement expires in 2024, whether the CRT is terminated or not.
By mutual agreement, parts or all of the CRT could potentially be renegotiated at any time.
Some provisions of the CRT including – Called Upon Flood Control, Kootenay Diversion rights and Libby Dam coordination obligations – would remain in place as long as the dams exist even if the CRT is terminated.
2014: A Minimum of 10 Years’ Notice
With a minimum of 10 years’ written notice, either Canada or the U.S. may terminate the CRT any time on or after September 16, 2024.
Either country may give notice earlier than 2014 – and provide greater than 10 years notice – but 2024 is the earliest date for termination.
Either country may give notice after 2014, however, termination will not take effect until at least 10 years after the date of notice.
Downstream power benefits payments to BC ($150–$300 million US/year) expire. Canada’s requirement to regulate flows for power interests in the U.S. ends. Canadian flood control obligations change to Called Upon Flood Control. There is increased uncertainty in the U.S. regarding Canadian operations.
What are the key provisions of the Columbia River Treaty?
Columbia River Treaty Dams and Reservoirs
Under the CRT, Canada was required to build and operate three dams in the higher-elevation reaches of the Columbia Basin:
1967 – Duncan Dam (Duncan Reservoir)
1968 – Hugh Keenleyside Dam (Arrow Lakes Reservoir)
1973 – Mica Dam (Kinbasket Reservoir)
The CRT also allowed the U.S. to construct Libby Dam in Montana. Its reservoir – the Koocanusa – extends 67 km into Canada. Operations at Libby Dam are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. entities.
Downstream Power Benefits
Downstream power benefits are additional power that can be generated in the United States as a result of the water flow management provided by storage reservoirs in Canada under the CRT.
The Canadian Entitlement
The Canadian share of downstream power benefits, known as the Canadian Entitlement belongs to the Province of BC and is sold at market value. Revenue from this sale of hydroelectricity goes directly to the Province of BC’s general revenue and is used to fund many things such as health care and education. These benefits are shared by all regions of BC including the Columbia Basin.
For more information on downstream power benefits click here.
Reservoir storage facilities in the Columbia River system in Canada and the U.S. are operated in a coordinated manner to provide flood control benefits for the communities and residents in both countries. The CRT prescribes two primary types of flood control provisions, Assured Annual Flood Control and On Call Flood Control.
- Assured Annual Flood Control. Under the CRT Canada agrees to provide assured annual water storage for flood control purposes at the three CRT reservoirs for 60 years. Unless renegotiated, the annual Assured Annual Flood Control provision expires in 2024.
- On Call Flood Control. On Call Flood Control is designed to be used during periods of very high inflows. The U.S. can request Canada to provide On Call storage in addition to the Assured Annual Flood Control provisions. This means Canada would provide additional storage at Canadian reservoirs over and above what the CRT prescribes for Assured Annual Flood Control. In order for the U.S. to request On Call Flood Control, it must first make effective use of its own reservoir storage space, flows must exceed target levels at the Dalles Dam in the lower Columbia River near Portland and Canada must be compensated for operational costs.
The On Call Flood Control provision remains in effect as long as the CRT dams exist, even if the CRT is terminated. After 2024, the On Call Flood Control provision will be referred to as Called Upon Flood Control.
Both types of flood control are described in more detail here.
What are the roles and responsibilities?
The CRT was agreed to by the Province of BC and the Canadian and U.S. federal governments. Both federal governments, as well as the Province, have specific roles under the CRT.
Under the U.S. constitution, only the President can make decisions on international treaties, based on the advice and consent of the Senate.
The 1963 Canada–BC Agreement transferred the rights and obligations under the CRT to the Province of BC. It also requires that Canada obtain the concurrence of the Province prior to issuing any notice of termination. It does not specify exact roles for the federal government around termination and renegotiation, but any substantive changes to the CRT would require federal government involvement.
The Prime Minister of Canada was the original signatory of the CRT on behalf of Canada.
Province of BC
The Canada–BC Agreement transferred the rights and obligations under the CRT to the Province. The Province’s role in the future of the CRT has not yet been fully determined as this agreement does not specify exact roles around termination and renegotiation. Any substantive changes to the CRT will require provincial government involvement.
The Province has committed to undertake consultations with affected stakeholders and Basin residents around potential changes to the CRT. BC Hydro was appointed by the Province as the Canadian Entity and is responsible for implementing the CRT on behalf of the Province.
What is Columbia Basin Trust’s role?
The original process in which decisions were made to enact the CRT by the provincial and federal governments did not allow for adequate consultation with Basin residents in Canada. As a result, residents did not have the opportunity to provide input into a decision that had a major impact on their lives and life in the Basin.
Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) was created to benefit the areas most adversely affected by the CRT. During the creation of CBT there was clear public direction that one of the priorities for CBT should be to prepare residents for the potential renewal or renegotiation of the CRT when that opportunity occurs.
CBT’s primary role in regard to the CRT is to act as an information resource for Basin residents and local governments. CBT is also working with provincial and federal government agencies to provide advice on meaningful consultation processes with Basin residents and local governments on any process to amend, renew or terminate the CRT or any of its related sub-agreements.
What can I do?
Benefits and Impacts of the CRT
Read the Provincial Executive Summary: Review of the Range of Impacts and Benefits of the Columbia River Treaty on Basin Communities, the Region and the Province or read the full Provincial Report.
What are historical impacts of constructing Columbia River Treaty dams?
The impacts of large dams include three broad categories: biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical.
Learn more here.
What are the benefits of the CRT to the Basin and the Province?
- BC still receives approximately US$200–300 million each year in downstream power benefits.
- The increased water storage and regulated flows resulting from the CRT dams led to the development of hydroelectric projects such as Kootenay Canal Generating Station (1976), Revelstoke Dam (1983) and Arrow Lakes Generating Station (2002).
- BC used the pre-sale of its Canadian Entitlement (US$254 million) and the Assured Annual Flood Control prepayments (US$64.4 million) to construct the three CRT dams in Canada.
- Dam construction provided employment opportunities for several thousand people over several years and continues to provide ongoing employment opportunities.
- Increased economic hydroelectricity.
- Many Canadian communities benefit from flood control provided by the CRT.
- Reservoir-based recreation opportunities.
What are the impacts of the CRT in the Basin and the Province?
- Some communities were lost or changed forever and local businesses and private properties were impacted.
- Approximately 600 km2 of fertile and productive valley bottoms in Canada were flooded to fill the Arrow Lakes, Duncan, Kinbasket and Koocanusa reservoirs.
- Agriculture and forestry activities have been limited due to the loss of fertile, low-elevation land.
- Approximately 2,300 people along the Arrow Lakes, Duncan, Kinbasket and Koocanusa reservoirs were relocated.
- Numerous First Nations’ cultural and archeological sites were submerged.
- Ecosystems were altered, impacting fish and wildlife values, and reducing habitat availability.
- Transportation routes were altered or eliminated.
- Dust storms on reservoirs can negatively impact human health.
- Fluctuating water levels limit recreation and tourism opportunities.
The CRT and NAFTA
What is the relationship between the CRT and NAFTA?
The CRT deals with the cooperative development of the Columbia River basin for power and flood control. It has only two parties, Canada and the U.S. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deals with trade in goods and services-including energy-and with the protection of investments by an investor of one party in the territory of another party. NAFTA has three parties: Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The CRT was ratified by Canada in 1964; NAFTA came into force in 1994. The CRT is implemented in Canadian law by actions of the executive branch of government, principally, the government of the Province of BC. NAFTA is implemented in Canadian law by the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, SC 1993, c 44.
The principal relationship between the CRT and NAFTA concerns the topic of trade in energy. This is dealt with in Chapter 6 of NAFTA. Basically, Chapter 6 provides for non-discriminatory access for Canadian energy to U.S. energy markets and related energy infrastructure (i.e., transmission lines). One of the issues at the time the CRT was negotiated was the question of whether or not BC would be able to market power, and especially the downstream power benefits, into the U.S. This issue was resolved for the first 30 years by the Protocol to the CRT, which authorized the pre-sale of the downstream power benefits. The relevant provisions of the CRT and the Protocol are Treaty, Article VIII Disposal of Entitlement to Downstream Power Benefits and Protocol, paragraph, III.
The more general trading regime created by NAFTA gives BC all the opportunities and protections that it needs to access American energy markets and infrastructure. Thus, the more specialized (and discretionary) regime created by Article VIII of the CRT is now unnecessary.
Why is Libby Dam different from other CRT dams?
Libby Dam has different operational obligations compared to the three CRT dams in Canada. Although Canadian land was flooded to fill Koocanusa Reservoir, and Libby regulation improves the value of hydro generation at downstream plants on the Kootenay River in Canada, neither BC nor Canada receive direct benefit payments or compensation. Still, under the CRT the two countries jointly agree on reservoir management operations, and therefore, river flows, primarily for flood control and power generation purposes.
What is the impact of operations at Libby Dam on dikes in the Creston area?
Read the Provincial Report: Libby VARQ Flood Control Impacts on Kootenay River Dikes.
What are the prospects of adding power generation to Duncan Dam?
A number of agencies have explored the prospects of adding power generation to Duncan Dam. Columbia Power Corporation, CBT’s joint-venture power partner, is currently investigating the possibility of adding generation to BC Hydro’s Duncan Dam. Considerations include hydroelectricity prices, the cost of adding generating capacity, and technology. No decision has been made at this time.
What is the lifespan of the Columbia River Treaty dams?
Columbia River Treaty dams have a long life of more than 100 years, and are continually maintained and upgraded. In fact, with reinvestment over the long-term, the operating life of a dam could be indefinite.
Environment and the CRT
Can the CRT account for potential climate change impacts and if so, how?
Climate change will have an impact on hydrological systems’ operations with regard to coordinated flood control between Canada and the U.S. A slightly earlier, sharper spring freshet period combined with increased likelihood of extreme weather, including potential increases in winter precipitation and rain on snow events, will change historic stream flow patterns.
The large reservoir systems in place, and their ability to capture water, may enable us to better manage the impact of low flows in drier summer months. Dams and the existing reservoir system act as an excellent adaptation strategy that acts to mediate impacts of potentially more extreme weather. Current coordinated flood control agreements will need to acknowledge these changes in the hydrologic system.
Learn more here.
Feedback from Basin Residents
What do residents think?
In anticipation of a potential decision in 2014 regarding the future of the CRT, CBT, in collaboration with the CRT Local Governments’ Committee (LG Committee), is engaging with Basin residents to:
- Raise awareness and understanding of the CRT past, present and future; and
- Develop the capacity of Basin residents to engage in discussions related to the CRT review.
Summaries as well as videos that capture input from Basin residents are available:
- Read the Summary of Spring 2012 Information Sessions.
- Read the 2011 CRT Education and Engagement Summary Report.
- Read the 2011 CRT Information Session Summaries by community.
- Read the fact sheet and see the diagram about What Residents Said.
- Watch the video about What Residents Said.
- Watch the short Speaker’s Corner Videos that capture ideas from Basin residents.
Future of the CRT
What is the future of the Columbia River Treaty?
Province of BC: Continue CRT and Seek Improvements
On March 14, 2014 the Province of BC announced its decision to continue the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) and seek improvements within its existing framework. Fourteen principles will guide future discussion and among others, include equitable sharing of benefits from transboundary coordination and recognition that BC is impacted by CRT operations.
Read the BC Decision on the Future of Columbia River Treaty.
U.S.: Modernize Current Treaty
On December 13, 2013 the U.S. Entity made its final recommendations to the U.S. federal government. It recommended a modern treaty framework that balances power production, flood control and ecosystem functions. The U.S. will coordinate a review on behalf of the President of the United States.
How does flood control currently operate and how will it change in 2024?
Reservoir storage facilities in the Columbia River system in Canada and the U.S. are operated in a coordinated manner to provide flood control benefits for the communities and residents in both countries. The Columbia River Treaty prescribes two types of flood control provisions: Assured Annual Flood Control and On Call Flood Control.
The two main changes to flood control post-2024 are:
- Assured Annual Flood Control expire (unless renegotiated).
- On Call Flood Control changes to Called Upon Flood Control.
Both types of flood control are described in more detail here.
What flexibility exists in the current CRT to address residents’ concerns?
The Columbia River Treaty (CRT) provides Canada with some unilateral flexibility to operate CRT storage as a composite. While the CRT flood control obligations are reservoir-specific, the power provisions of the CRT are not. For example, BC Hydro often ‘swaps’ CRT-required releases from Arrow Lakes Reservoir to/from Duncan Reservoir in order to accomplish fisheries, recreation, power or other objectives. In addition, BC Hydro regularly uses this flexibility to release more or less water from Mica Dam than is required under the CRT, essentially transferring water between Kinbasket and Arrow Lakes Reservoirs.
What mechanisms exist to amend the current CRT?
There are various options that may be used to modify the continued cooperation between Canada and the U.S., in relation to Columbia River flows and the physical operation of the CRT reservoirs. The options available are dependent on the objectives of the parties, but changes can potentially be achieved through modifications to CRT operating plans (e.g., Assured Operating Plans, Detailed Operating Plans, Flood Control Operating Plans), supplemental operating agreements by the CRT Operating Committee, entity agreements or commercial agreements between the operators of the CRT facilities (e.g., Non-Treaty Storage Agreement). If, however, there is a substantial departure from the terms of the CRT, then other more formal mechanisms may be required, such as an executive agreement (e.g., an exchange of notes or a protocol), another type of agreement between Canada and the U.S., or an amendment to the CRT.
Learn more here
What is the Kootenay Diversion?
The Kootenay Diversion is a right given to Canada under the CRT to divert water from the upper Kootenay River into the Columbia River at various points between Canal Flats and the Canada–U.S. border. The right began 20 years after the CRT was ratified (1984) and changes in nature at various points in time, which are spelled out in the CRT. Canada has not chosen to take advantage of their right, primarily because of the adverse environmental effects such a diversion might cause to the Columbia Wetlands area between the Canal Flats and Donald area.
Learn more here.
Non-Treaty Storage Agreement
What is the Non-Treaty Storage Agreement?
BC Hydro designed and built Mica Dam to store more water than was required under the CRT. As a result, an additional five-million acre feet (MAF) of usable water storage is available at Mica Dam. This extra storage is referred to as Non-Treaty Storage. The 1984 Non-Treaty Storage Agreement (NTSA) is a commercial agreement between BC Hydro and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) regarding the management of reservoir and power plant operations on the Columbia River in Canada and the U.S. The NTSA provides better utilization of water storage at Mica Dam that is not already coordinated with the U.S. under the CRT by creating power and non-power benefits to both countries. This enhanced coordination is made possible through storage and release of Non-Treaty Storage water at Hugh Keenleyside Dam.
In early 2011, BC Hydro engaged with BPA to negotiate a new NTSA. The agreement was signed in April 2012. The NTSA is within BC Hydro’s water licence for the Columbia River projects and was contemplated in BC Hydro’s Columbia River Water Use Plan. The agreement will allow BC Hydro to better balance the often competing non-power interests on the Columbia River.
Salmon in the Columbia Basin
Can salmon be returned?
It is technically feasible to restore salmon populations to a portion, or all, of their historic range in the upper Columbia. This is most clearly demonstrated with recent successful efforts to restore Okanagan chinook and sockeye salmon populations which have to migrate, upstream and downstream, through nine mainstem Columbia River dams.
What changes to the Columbia River Treaty are needed to restore salmon?
Specific changes to the Columbia River Treaty may not be required to allow for salmon restoration in the upper Columbia. However, Canada and the U.S. will have to cooperate if they have a shared interest in restoring salmon to the upper Columbia.
Learn more here.
U.S. Perspective on the Future of the CRT
What is the U.S. perspective on the future of the CRT?
Visit www.crt2014–2024review.gov for more information about U.S. perspectives and planning with regard to the future of the CRT.
The following summary of themes and questions from U.S. residents were documented at Columbia River Treaty Review Stakeholder Listening Sessions held in the U.S. in June–July, 2012. Review the full report here.
Balance and Trade-Offs
Stakeholders want to make sure the analysis includes an evaluation of the trade-offs and balance between ecosystem, power, and flood risk management.
Broader Ecosystem Questions
There were many questions related to the broader ecosystem analysis, especially in relation to the Clean Water Act. Some wondered if a comprehensive review had been performed on the ecosystem function of the Basin as a whole, and the priority areas of concern throughout the Basin. They highlighted the importance of thinking beyond fish to consider the ecosystems and their functions for the full array of affected species.
Canadian Entitlement to Downstream Power Benefits
This remains a focus of considerable concern, especially for those mid-Columbia utilities responsible for providing a significant portion of this entitlement to Canada. They are eager to be engaged in the continued, more detailed cost analysis related to the entitlement. The suggestion was made that any Treaty recommendations include a renegotiation of the current entitlement.
Participants wondered where and how climate change is being addressed and accounted for in the alternatives under analysis. This was a high priority for attendees.
Conservation and Alternative Sources of Power
Stakeholders questioned the way in which alternative power supply sources, especially wind power, had been accounted for in the analysis. There were several comments about the role of water and power conservation, and the degree to which conservation could be encouraged or hindered by the Treaty.
Effects on Fish
Stakeholders are eager to see the data related specifically to reservoir levels and fish flows and the effects of these levels on both anadromous and resident fish populations. There is concern related to the current Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (BiOp): many noted that the current BiOp figured prominently in the alternatives, and asserted that this should not be relied on, given that the BiOp is likely to change. They hoped that the alternative analysis wasn’t being unnecessarily constrained by the current BiOp.
Flood Control: Effective Use and Called Upon
These terms were the focus of many questions during the stakeholder listening sessions. Participants wondered exactly what they meant, when they would come into play, and the monetary and environmental costs associated with each of them.
Revised Approaches to Flood Control
There were numerous questions about possible approaches to flood control that go beyond the current reliance on levees. Participants wondered about levee removal, for example, and reconnecting flood plains. Groundwater recharge was also suggested as a possibility for diverting and storing water, and thereby alleviating flood risk.
Flood Risk Management: 450 and 600 kcfs
Attendees wondered how 450 and 600 kcfs (as measured at the Dalles Dam in Oregon) had been determined, and the impacts of these two levels on river flows. They are interested in the continued evaluation of flood risk possibilities, especially in relation to the higher 600 kcfs level.
Preferential and Slice Customers
Utility representatives in attendance want to know how they might be treated if the Treaty is modified or terminated.
System Reliability and Flexibility
Stakeholders are concerned about the long-term reliability and flexibility of the hydropower system and don’t want either compromised if the Treaty is terminated or modified. Would the current system actually be enhanced through a modified Treaty?
Uncertainty of Canadian Operations and Assumptions
Is the analysis currently being performed in the United States connected to, and integrated with, the Treaty analysis underway in Canada? There is an uncertainty about how Canada might operate without a Treaty, and participants want to make sure this was being adequately accounted for and addressed in the CRT Review modeling.
There is concern about water supply issues related to the Treaty. Irrigation is a primary concern, but water supply needs also extend to municipal and industrial sources of supply. Stakeholders are concerned that water supply is being treated through an impact assessment process rather than as a primary driving purpose in the CRT Review process.
For more information or to Review the entire report visit the The Columbia River Treaty 2014/2024 Review.
- Columbia River Treaty: Overview of Known U.S. Perspectives
- Columbia River Post-2024 Flood Risk Management Procedure White Paper (Sept 2011)
- BC Hydro’s Response to U.S. Flood Risk Management White Paper
- June/July 2012 Listening Sessions Materials
- June/July 2012 Listening Sessions Summary
- B.C.’s presentation at American Water Resources Association Conference on the CRT
Why do reservoir levels fluctuate?
Reservoir levels fluctuate to regulate water flows downstream of the dam. When demand for power is low, the flow through the turbines is cut back and the storage space is filled; when demand for power is high, the flow through the turbines is increased and water levels are lowered. The storage of water in reservoirs is used to change the shape of the releases from the dam and to change generation levels both at the dam and downstream of the dam.
The general cycle of reservoirs in the interior of BC is to draft down across the fall and winter, reaching a low point in early spring. The reservoir then refills during the spring/early summer when high runoff occurs. The reservoirs’ levels and discharge releases from the dams are managed to meet multiple objectives both in the reservoir and in the downstream river including power, flood control, fish and wildlife, heritage, recreation and navigation.
Where can I get information on water levels?
Fortis BC – www.fortisbc.com or call 1.866.436.7847
BC Hydro – www.bchydro.com or call 1.877.924.244
Use this interactive map to learn about the Columbia River system including reservoir levels, dams, reservoirs and hydro generation.
Instructions: Click icons in the table of contents. Zoom in and out to see more or less detail. Use the reset button to return to a map view of the Columbia Basin in Canada. Map contains some large files, data may take a few seconds to load.