FAQs

Columbia River Treaty
  1. What is the Columbia River Treaty?
  2. What are the Canadian and U.S. Entities?
  3. What are the benefits to British Columbia from the Columbia River Treaty?
  4. What flood control is provided under the Columbia River Treaty?
  5. What are the impacts to British Columbia from the Columbia River Treaty?
  6. What are downstream benefits?
  7. What is the Canadian Entitlement?
  8. How has the United States benefitted from the Columbia River Treaty?
  9. What is Columbia Basin Trust?
  10. What is Columbia Power Corporation?
  11. What is the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program?
Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review
  1. What is the 2014 Columbia River Treaty Review?
  2. Why is British Columbia leading the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?
  3. Who negotiates international treaties like the Columbia River Treaty?
  4. Why are the dates 2014 and 2024 important?
  5. What are the Columbia River Treaty Phase 1 Studies?
  6. Who will the Province involve in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?
  7. Will First Nations be consulted as part of the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?
  8. What is BC Hydro’s role in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?
  9. What is the Canadian federal government’s role in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?
  10. What is the United States doing to review the Columbia River Treaty?
Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Public Engagement
  1. What are the objectives of the Province’s Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review public engagement?
  2. How does the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review build on past engagement with Columbia River Basin residents on water interests?
  3. How will the Province engage with residents of the Columbia River Basin?
  4. What is the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee?
  5. When will Province’s Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team be in my community?
  6. How can I provide input to the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

Columbia River Treaty

1. What is the Columbia River Treaty?

 

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 is the earliest either party could give 10 years’ notice).

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2. What are the Canadian and U.S. Entities

 

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.

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3. What are the benefits to British Columbia from the Columbia River Treaty?

 

The Columbia River Treaty has brought significant flood control and power benefits to British Columbia.

Flood damage reduction

Particularly around Trail, Castlegar, Revelstoke and Creston.

Power generation

Assured winter flows for power generation.At-site electricity generation at Mica dam.Ability to develop additional generating facilities including: Kootenay Canal Plant (1974), Revelstoke Dam (1984), Arrow Lakes Generating Station (2002), Brilliant Expansion project (2007).Power generating facilities on the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers generate around 44% of electricity produced in British Columbia.

Jobs/Economic Stimulus

Generating facilities provide jobs, spin off industries, services from ongoing operations/periodic upgrades.Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust jobs and regional investment.

Canadian Entitlement

(Canada’s share of the downstream power benefits)

Annual delivery of 1320 megawatts capacity and 4540 gigawatt hours of energy to British Columbia border over last 10 yrs.Worth $120-300M annually.

Construction cost for the Keenleyside (Arrow), Mica, and Duncan dams

Up front cash payments of $64 million for flood control and $254 million for the first thirty years of Canadian Entitlement power.

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4. What flood control is provided under the Columbia River Treaty?

 

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.

5. What are the impacts to British Columbia from the Columbia River Treaty?

 

Although the four dams [Duncan, Mica, Arrow (Hugh Keenleyside), Libby] improved flood control and power production, the resulting reservoirs in Canada flooded 60,000 hectares (231 square miles) of valley bottom land.

Flooding impacted traditional First Nations’ sites, agricultural and forestry areas, displaced a dozen communities, including approximately 2,300 people, and impacted fish and wildlife habitat.

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6. What are downstream benefits?

 

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.

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7. What is the Canadian Entitlement?

 

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 – $300 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.

The following table shows the value of the Canadian Entitlement for each fiscal year, beginning in fiscal 1998/1999 when the Canadian Entitlement began returning to the Province.

Canadian Entitlement

Fiscal Year Amount ($ millions)
1998/1999 $16
1999/2000 $100
2000/2001 $632
2001/2002 $360
2002/2003 $100
2003/2004 $230
2004/2005 $258
2005/2006 $319
2006/2007 $223
2007/2008 $246
2008/2009 $231
2009/2010 $168
2010/2011 $136
2011/2012 $110
2012/2013 $89
Total $3,218
Average $214.5

 

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8. How has the United States benefited from the Columbia River Treaty?

 

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

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9. What is Columbia Basin Trust?

 

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 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.

Columbia Basin Trust manages the endowment through its Investment Program which provides funding for its Delivery of Benefits activities. Currently, Columbia Basin Trust provides $20 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.

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10. What is Columbia Power Corporation?

 

In 1994, the Province formed 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. Currently the Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust partnership, along with FortisBC, is involved in the 335 MW Waneta Expansion Project.

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11. What is the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program?

 

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 2014 Review

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12. What is the Columbia River Treaty 2014 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 is September 2014.

Government agencies in both Canada and the United States have begun examining future Columbia River Treaty options. The Ministry of Energy and Mines Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team is leading the Province’s 2014 Review.

It will conduct 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 will be conducted and the Province will seek to understand United States’ interests.

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13. Why is British Columbia leading the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

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
British Columbia
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  
Canada
Signatory to Treaty Trans-boundary waters
Approval of changes to Treaty Canada-US relations
Appoint Canadian Permanent Engineering Board members  

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14. Who negotiates international treaties like the Columbia River Treaty?

 

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.

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15. Why are the dates 2014 and 2024 important?

 

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.

This suggests a “notice date” of 16 September 2014, but this can be done earlier or later.

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

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16. What are the Columbia River Treaty Phase 1 studies?

 

The Columbia River Treaty Phase 1 studies were a joint effort between the United States and Canadian Entities. The United States Entity consists of the Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Canadian Entity is BC Hydro.

These initial studies were designed to begin a learning process regarding power and flood control conditions after 2024.

The studies did not include actual operations for fisheries and other uses. Both Entities will be further examining other objectives in future studies.

Download Phase 1 Study and Exec Summary

For more information, see the following links:

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17. Who will the Province involve in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

The Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review will include engagement with First Nations, stakeholder groups and the public, including youth. The Ministry of Energy and Mines Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team is working with many key stakeholders, including Columbia Basin Trust and the Local Governments’ Committee, to assist with public and First Nations’ engagement and consultation.

The Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team is also working with the Federal government and other provincial agencies to ensure a streamlined, effective approach to the Review.

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18. Will First Nations be consulted as part of the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

First Nation consultation is a key component of the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review and will be a separate consultation process.

Canada and BC have signed an MOU to coordinate Aboriginal consultations as part of the Review. This consultation process will help inform Canada and BC’s recommendations to decision makers.

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19. What is BC Hydro’s role in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

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 2014 Review Team and is providing technical support to the Columbia River Treaty review process.

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20. What is the federal government’s role in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

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 role in the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review, however each government will have their own decision making process.

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21. What is the United States doing to review the Columbia River Treaty?

 

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 are conducting 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 2014 Review Public Engagement

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22. What are the objectives of the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review public engagement?

 

Please look at our principles of engagement

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23. How does the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review build on past engagements with Columbia River Basin residents on water interests?

 

The Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team will review 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 intends to build on the information already gathered in carrying out the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review public consultation process.

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24. How will the Province engage with residents of the Columbia River Basin?

 

We will engage through this website, community meetings and a youth event.

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25. What is the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’ Committee?

 

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 will work with Columbia Basin Trust to create education and awareness activities in the region. They will help the Province understand regional views, values and interests with respect to the Columbia River Treaty.

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26. When will the BC Government be in my community?

 

A calendar of Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review community engagement workshops can be found on our Calendar of Events page

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27. How can I provide input to the Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review?

 

You can attend Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review community engagement workshops in your region or provide your input through the Province’s web site .