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

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Birds were saved but the buildings on Castleman Road were destroyed by fire

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

Firefighters bring Sts’ailes FSR fire under control

Blaze held at bay after burning 15 hectares of land

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

PHOTOS: Moving day for 110-year-old Fraser Valley heritage house

Chilliwack heritage house makes 1.7-kilometre journey to new location

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

Most Read