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

‘We’re running out of options’: Victoria looks to other municipalities to help shelter homeless

Victoria Curling Club, Crystal Pool ruled out as options for the 250 people remaining outside

VIDEO: Man breaks up Saanich road rage fight

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road

Mental Health: A look at a fractured system

In this special series, Black Press Media reporters share stories from across Greater Victoria

Saanich Peninsula Hospital to host new COVID-19 testing facilities

It is not clear yet when they will go into action

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ entertains home-bound kids in Cowichan Bay

Alora Killam, 16, played the part in musical two years ago

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Most Read