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

Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:08pm EDT
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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.

Under the treaty, four dams were built in the Pacific Northwest: three in southeastern British Columbia and one in Montana. The United States paid for the building of the dams, which are used for hydroelectric power production.

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.

British Columbia's Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Canada should receive more than the C$100 million ($90.4 million) to C$300 million it gets annually from the United States for the benefits its southern neighbor enjoys under the treaty.

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 British Columbia-based dams. Canada for the most part monetizes the power by selling it back to U.S. utilities.

Bennett said the United States was overly focused on power output. "Let us not just talk about power benefits. Let's talk about all the benefits," he said in an interview.   Continued...