Reservoir created by Mica Dam

Pay more for Columbia River, minister tells U.S.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett says some were "shocked" at suggestion $150M a year isn't enough for power, flood control in U.S.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett caused a stir at a conference on the Columbia River treaty with a speech calling for the U.S. government to pay more for the power and flood protection they receive.

Bennett was in Spokane last week to address the Columbia River Basin Transboundary Conference. In an interview after his speech, he said it was the first time B.C. has laid out its expectations for the 50-year-old treaty.

“I didn’t get any discourteous responses from the audience, but I think there were definitely a few people who were a bit shocked,” Bennett said. “I think there are a lot of folks here in the U.S. who think that the $150 million we get is more than what we should get each year, and I said I don’t think it’s nearly enough.”

The annual payment represents half the value of electricity generated downstream of dams on the Columbia River. After the treaty took effect in 1964, BC Hydro constructed the Mica, Duncan and Hugh Keenleyside dams on the Columbia system, with the help of a $275 million payment from the U.S. government.

The treaty was reached by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower after devastating floods in 1948 that destroyed the community of Vanport, Ore. On the B.C. side, the flood left most of the lower part of Trail B.C. underwater and destroyed crops at Creston.

Bennett said both the cost of the dams to B.C. farmland and wetlands, and the value of flood control to the U.S., are not well recognized south of the border.

“At one time the land around Arrow Lake produced more fruit and vegetables than the Okanagan,” he said. “Back in the ’50s it was a very fertile valley and it’s all underwater now. So the people on our side of the border really want us to get some more resources to enhance fish and wildlife and agriculture in Canada.”

The treaty has no expiry date, but contains a provision that either side can give 10 years’ notice to cancel it. B.C. announced last March that it wants to continue the treaty and discuss the terms.

Bennett said the U.S. government has given no indication of its intentions, and has no obligation to do so. State and local officials in Washington and Oregon recently questioned whether the existing payments should continue, but that has subsided recently, he said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police watchdog clears West Shore RCMP in altercation that led to man needing 82 staples

The man pretended he had a weapon he would use against the police

Vehicle bursts into flames due to mechanical failure, occupants escape injury

View Royal firefighters were on scene less than five minutes after the first 911 call

West Shore RCMP snag suspect in early morning mail theft

Citizen call leads officers to quickly locate suspect

Victoria to consider new appeals process for rejected short-term rental applications

There is not an established process in place for people seeking to reapply

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Most Read