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.


Just Posted

Free theatre performance for Lake Country families

Robinson Crusoe + Friday will be performed at Creekside Theatre April 14

Protect the Water rally today in Kelowna

The rally will be held at No. 102 – 1420 St Paul Street, Kelowna.

Wild weather leads to power outages

Thousands woke up in the dark this morning, as Fortis crews scrambled to get power up and running.

CNIB promises to respond to criticism

Blind community advocates call for inclusion initiatives

UPDATED: Heavy rain causes flooding in the Central Okanagan

Portion of lower Glenrosa Road closed due to flooding

Photos: Salmon Arm celebrates Paralympic champion Natalie Wilkie

Hometown hero welcomed home with parade, recognition ceremony at city hall

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

BREAKING: B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

Armstrong declares State of Emergency

Residents whose homes are impacted by the flooding should call City Hall 250-546-3023

Flooding leads to Pioneer Square evacuation in Armstrong

Armstrong assisted living facility has water in basement; nine suites evacuated

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Suspect arrested and charged for assault on autistic man

Parmvir Chahil has strong B.C. ties; two others charged with accessory after the fact

Most Read