Is the earliest the Columbia River Treaty can be terminated by either Canada or the U.S.
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Canada or the U.S.would need to give a minimum of 10 years' written notice
If you have a question that is not answered here, ask the Provincial Columbia River Treaty 2014 Review Team.
What is the Columbia River Treaty?
Why was the CRT signed?
Why does the Columbia River Treaty matter?
Who implements the Columbia River Treaty?
Why are 2014 and 2024 important dates?
What are the key provisions of the CRT?
What are the roles and responsibilities?
What is Columbia Basin Trust's role?
What can I do?
What is the Columbia River Treaty?
The Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is an international agreement between Canada and the U.S. for the joint development, regulation and management of the Columbia River in order to coordinate flood control and optimize electrical energy production on both sides of the border.
The CRT has no official expiry date, but has a minimum length of 60 years, which is met in September 2024. It is possible that one or both countries may wish to renegotiate parts or all of the CRT, or terminate it entirely.
Learn more. Read An Overview: Columbia River Treaty
The CRT provides many benefits to both countries. The Columbia River System in Canada provides 50 per cent of the hydroelectricity in BC. In addition, the Canadian Entitlement to downstream power benefits is currently valued at approximately $150 - $300 million US each year and that revenue belongs to the Province of BC. The CRT also provides flood control benefits in the Canadian and US portions of the Columbia Basin protecting cities such as Portland, Oregon and Trail, BC from major floods.
Although there are benefits, there were also many negative impacts as a result of the CRT, most of which occurred in the Canadian portion of the Columbia Basin. Impacts include, but are not limited to, the flooding of approximately 600 km2 fertile and productive valley bottoms to fill the Arrow Lakes, Duncan, Kinbasket and Koocanusa reservoirs; re-location of about 2,300 people from their homes and communities along the Arrow Lakes, Duncan and Koocanusa reservoirs; the loss of First Nations' cultural sites; and changes to ecosystems, impacting fish and wildlife values and reducing habitat availability.
The year 2024 is the earliest date either Canada or the United States may terminate the CRT providing 10-years advance notice is given (2014). At this time no decision has been made by either country to terminate, renegotiate or modify the terms of the current CRT. Given the importance of CRT issues, both countries are completing ongoing studies and are considering the future of the CRT.
Residents in the Columbia Basin, on both sides of the border, will be directly affected by any decision related to the future of the CRT. It is important that residents be involved in the process and prepare to engage in positive and productive dialogue on the future of the CRT.
Video: Why Does it Matter?
Elected officials talk about why the Columbia River Treaty matters. (3 mins)
2024: Either Country May Terminate
The CRT is an evergreen agreement and has no official expiry date, but has a minimum length of 60 years, which is met in September 16, 2024. It is possible that one or both countries may wish to renegotiate or terminate some of the CRT effective on or after this date. Both countries may also consider mutual improvements for the implementation of the CRT.
If neither country provides notice to terminate, the CRT will continue indefinitely, with the exception of the Assured Annual Flood Control provision.
Under the CRT, the U.S. paid $64.4 million US in advance for operation of the Assured Annual Flood Control through to 2024. This arrangement expires in 2024, whether the CRT is terminated or not.
By mutual agreement, parts or all of the CRT could potentially be renegotiated at any time.
Some provisions of the CRT including–Called Upon Flood Control, Kootenay Diversion rights and Libby Dam coordination obligations–would remain in place as long as the dams exist even if the CRT is terminated.
2014: A Minimum of 10 Years’ Notice
With a minimum of 10 years’ written notice, either Canada or the U.S. may terminate the CRT any time on or after September 16, 2024.
Either country may give notice earlier than 2014–and provide greater than 10 years notice–but 2024 is the earliest date for termination.
Either country may give notice after 2014, however, termination will not take effect until at least 10 years after the date of notice.
Downstream power benefits payments to BC ($150-$300 million US / year) expire. Canada’s requirement to regulate flows for power interests in the U.S. ends. Canadian flood control obligations change to Called Upon Flood Control. There is increased uncertainty in the U.S. regarding Canadian operations.
Under the CRT, Canada was required to build and operate three dams in the higher-elevation reaches of the Columbia Basin:
1967– Duncan Dam (Duncan Reservoir)
1968– Hugh Keenleyside Dam (Arrow Lakes Reservoir)
1973– Mica Dam (Kinbasket Reservoir)
The CRT also allowed the U.S. to construct Libby Dam in Montana. Its reservoir – the Koocanusa – extends 67 km into Canada. Operations at Libby Dam are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. entities
Downstream power benefits are additional power that can be generated in the United States as a result of the water flow management provided by storage reservoirs in Canada under the CRT.The Canadian Entitlement
The Canadian share of downstream power benefits, known as the Canadian Entitlement belongs to the Province of BC and is sold at market value. Revenue from this sale of hydroelectricity goes directly to the Province of BC's general revenue and is used to fund many things such as health care and education. These benefits are shared by all regions of BC including the Columbia Basin.
For more information on downstream power benefits click here.Flood Control
Reservoir storage facilities in the Columbia River system in Canada and the U.S. are operated in a coordinated manner to provide flood control benefits for the communities and residents in both countries. The CRT prescribes two primary types of flood control provisions, Assured Annual Flood Control and On Call Flood Control.
The On Call Flood Control provision remains in effect as long as the CRT dams exist, even if the CRT is terminated. After 2024, the On Call Flood Control provision will be referred to as Called Upon Flood Control.
Both types of flood control are described in more detail here.
The CRT was agreed to by the Province of BC and the Canadian and U.S. federal governments. Both federal governments, as well as the Province, have specific roles under the CRT.
Under the U.S. constitution, only the President can make decisions on international treaties, based on the advice and consent of the Senate.
The 1963 Canada-BC Agreement transferred the rights and obligations under the CRT to the Province of BC. It also requires that Canada obtain the concurrence of the Province prior to issuing any notice of termination. It does not specify exact roles for the federal government around termination and renegotiation, but any substantive changes to the CRT would require federal government involvement.
The Prime Minister of Canada was the original signatory of the CRT on behalf of Canada.Province of BC
The Province has committed to undertake consultations with affected stakeholders and Basin residents around potential changes to the CRT. BC Hydro was appointed by the Province as the Canadian Entity and is responsible for implementing the CRT on behalf of the Province.
The original process in which decisions were made to enact the CRT by the provincial and federal governments did not allow for adequate consultation with Basin residents in Canada. As a result, residents did not have the opportunity to provide input into a decision that had a major impact on their lives and life in the Basin.
Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) was created to benefit the areas most adversely affected by the CRT. During the creation of CBT there was clear public direction that one of the priorities for CBT should be to prepare residents for the potential renewal or renegotiation of the CRT when that opportunity occurs.
CBT's primary role in regard to the CRT is to act as an information resource for Basin residents and local governments. CBT is also working with provincial and federal government agencies to provide advice on meaningful consultation processes with Basin residents and local governments on any process to amend, renew or terminate the CRT or any of its related sub-agreements.
Read the Provincial Executive Summary: Review of the Range of Impacts and Benefits of the Columbia River Treaty on Basin Communities, the Region and the Province or read the full Provincial Report.
The impacts of large dams include three broad categories: biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical.
Learn more here.
The CRT deals with the cooperative development of the Columbia River basin for power and flood control. It has only two parties, Canada and the U.S. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deals with trade in goods and services-including energy-and with the protection of investments by an investor of one party in the territory of another party. NAFTA has three parties: Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The CRT was ratified by Canada in 1964; NAFTA came into force in 1994. The CRT is implemented in Canadian law by actions of the executive branch of government, principally, the government of the Province of BC. NAFTA is implemented in Canadian law by the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, SC 1993, c 44.
The principal relationship between the CRT and NAFTA concerns the topic of trade in energy. This is dealt with in Chapter 6 of NAFTA. Basically, Chapter 6 provides for non-discriminatory access for Canadian energy to U.S. energy markets and related energy infrastructure (i.e., transmission lines). One of the issues at the time the CRT was negotiated was the question of whether or not BC would be able to market power, and especially the downstream power benefits, into the U.S. This issue was resolved for the first 30 years by the Protocol to the CRT, which authorized the pre-sale of the downstream power benefits. The relevant provisions of the CRT and the Protocol are Treaty, Article VIII Disposal of Entitlement to Downstream Power Benefits and Protocol, paragraph, III.
The more general trading regime created by NAFTA gives BC all the opportunities and protections that it needs to access American energy markets and infrastructure. Thus, the more specialized (and discretionary) regime created by Article VIII of the CRT is now unnecessary.
Why is Libby Dam different from other CRT dams?
What is the impact of operations at Libby Dam on dikes in the Creston area?
What are the prospects of adding power generation to Duncan Dam?
What is the lifespan of the Columbia River Treaty dams?
Libby Dam has different operational obligations compared to the three CRT dams in Canada. Although Canadian land was flooded to fill Koocanusa Reservoir, and Libby regulation improves the value of hydro generation at downstream plants on the Kootenay River in Canada, neither BC nor Canada receive direct benefit payments or compensation. Still, under the CRT the two countries jointly agree on reservoir management operations, and therefore, river flows, primarily for flood control and power generation purposes.
Libby Coordination Agreement
Learn more here.
Read the Provincial Report: Libby VARQ Flood Control Impacts on Kootenay River Dikes.
A number of agencies have explored the prospects of adding power generation to Duncan Dam. Columbia Power Corporation, CBT's joint-venture power partner, is currently investigating the possibility of adding generation to BC Hydro's Duncan Dam. Considerations include hydroelectricity prices, the cost of adding generating capacity, and technology. No decision has been made at this time.
Columbia River Treaty dams have a long life of more than 100 years, and are continually maintained and upgraded. In fact, with reinvestment over the long-term, the operating life of a dam could be indefinite.
Climate change will have an impact on hydrological systems' operations with regard to coordinated flood control between Canada and the U.S. A slightly earlier, sharper spring freshet period combined with increased likelihood of extreme weather, including potential increases in winter precipitation and rain on snow events, will change historic stream flow patterns.
The large reservoir systems in place, and their ability to capture water, may enable us to better manage the impact of low flows in drier summer months. Dams and the existing reservoir system act as an excellent adaptation strategy that acts to mediate impacts of potentially more extreme weather. Current coordinated flood control agreements will need to acknowledge these changes in the hydrologic system.
Learn more here.
In anticipation of a potential decision in 2014 regarding the future of the CRT, CBT, in collaboration with the CRT Local Governments’ Committee (LG Committee), is engaging with Basin residents to:
What is the future of the Columbia River Treaty?
How does flood control operate and how will it change in 2024?
What flexibility exists in the current CRT to address residents' concerns?
What mechanisms exist to amend the current CRT?
Canada and the United States are exploring two basic scenarios: to either terminate or continue the Columbia River Treaty (CRT). Under the scenario to continue the CRT, the Assured Annual Flood Control provision will expire in 2024. As part of their work to understand the implications of each scenario, both countries are examining what changes may occur compared to the CRT as it currently operates. Under the continue scenario there are two possible options - to continue status quo or the 'Plus' option which would incorporate additional values such as ecosystems, recreation etc.
For more information see The Future of the Columbia River Treaty.
Reservoir storage facilities in the Columbia River system in Canada and the U.S. are operated in a coordinated manner to provide flood control benefits for the communities and residents in both countries. The Columbia River Treaty prescribes two types of flood control provisions: Assured Annual Flood Control and On Call Flood Control.
The two main changes to flood control post-2024 are:
Both types of flood control are described in more detail here.
The Columbia River Treaty (CRT) provides Canada with some unilateral flexibility to operate CRT storage as a composite. While the CRT flood control obligations are reservoir-specific, the power provisions of the CRT are not. For example, BC Hydro often 'swaps' CRT-required releases from Arrow Lakes Reservoir to/from Duncan Reservoir in order to accomplish fisheries, recreation, power or other objectives. In addition, BC Hydro regularly uses this flexibility to release more or less water from Mica Dam than is required under the CRT, essentially transferring water between Kinbasket and Arrow Lakes Reservoirs.
There are various options that may be used to modify the continued cooperation between Canada and the U.S., in relation to Columbia River flows and the physical operation of the CRT reservoirs. The options available are dependent on the objectives of the parties, but changes can potentially be achieved through modifications to CRT operating plans (e.g., Assured Operating Plans, Detailed Operating Plans, Flood Control Operating Plans), supplemental operating agreements by the CRT Operating Committee, entity agreements or commercial agreements between the operators of the CRT facilities (e.g., Non-Treaty Storage Agreement). If, however, there is a substantial departure from the terms of the CRT, then other more formal mechanisms may be required, such as an executive agreement (e.g., an exchange of notes or a protocol), another type of agreement between Canada and the U.S., or an amendment to the CRT.
Learn more here.
The Kootenay Diversion is a right given to Canada under the CRT to divert water from the upper Kootenay River into the Columbia River at various points between Canal Flats and the Canada-U.S. border. The right began 20 years after the CRT was ratified (1984) and changes in nature at various points in time, which are spelled out in the CRT. Canada has not chosen to take advantage of their right, primarily because of the adverse environmental effects such a diversion might cause to the Columbia Wetlands area between the Canal Flats and Donald area.
Learn more here.
BC Hydro designed and built Mica Dam to store more water than was required under the CRT. As a result, an additional five-million acre feet (MAF) of usable water storage is available at Mica Dam. This extra storage is referred to as Non-Treaty Storage. The 1984 Non-Treaty Storage Agreement (NTSA) is a commercial agreement between BC Hydro and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) regarding the management of reservoir and power plant operations on the Columbia River in Canada and the U.S. The NTSA provides better utilization of water storage at Mica Dam that is not already coordinated with the U.S. under the CRT by creating power and non-power benefits to both countries. This enhanced coordination is made possible through storage and release of Non-Treaty Storage water at Hugh Keenleyside Dam.
In early 2011, BC Hydro engaged with BPA to negotiate a new NTSA. The agreement was signed in April 2012. The NTSA is within BC Hydro's water licence for the Columbia River projects and was contemplated in BC Hydro's Columbia River Water Use Plan. The agreement will allow BC Hydro to better balance the often competing non-power interests on the Columbia River.
Download NTSA fact sheet at here.
It is technically feasible to restore salmon populations to a portion, or all, of their historic range in the upper Columbia. This is most clearly demonstrated with recent successful efforts to restore Okanagan chinook and sockeye salmon populations which have to migrate, upstream and downstream, through nine mainstem Columbia River dams.
Specific changes to the Columbia River Treaty may not be required to allow for salmon restoration in the upper Columbia. However, Canada and the U.S. will have to cooperate if they have a shared interest in restoring salmon to the upper Columbia.
Learn more here.
Visit www.crt2014-2024review.gov for more information about U.S. perspectives and planning with regard to the future of the CRT.
The following summary of themes and questions from U.S. residents were documented at Columbia River Treaty Review Stakeholder Listening Sessions held in the U.S. in June-July, 2012. Review the full report here.
Balance and Trade-Offs
Stakeholders want to make sure the analysis includes an evaluation of the trade-offs and balance between ecosystem, power, and flood risk management.
Broader Ecosystem Questions
There were many questions related to the broader ecosystem analysis, especially in relation to the Clean Water Act. Some wondered if a comprehensive review had been performed on the ecosystem function of the Basin as a whole, and the priority areas of concern throughout the Basin. They highlighted the importance of thinking beyond fish to consider the ecosystems and their functions for the full array of affected species.
Canadian Entitlement to Downstream Power Benefits
This remains a focus of considerable concern, especially for those mid-Columbia utilities responsible for providing a significant portion of this entitlement to Canada. They are eager to be engaged in the continued, more detailed cost analysis related to the entitlement. The suggestion was made that any Treaty recommendations include a renegotiation of the current entitlement.
Participants wondered where and how climate change is being addressed and accounted for in the alternatives under analysis. This was a high priority for attendees.
Conservation and Alternative Sources of Power
Stakeholders questioned the way in which alternative power supply sources, especially wind power, had been accounted for in the analysis. There were several comments about the role of water and power conservation, and the degree to which conservation could be encouraged or hindered by the Treaty.
Effects on Fish
Stakeholders are eager to see the data related specifically to reservoir levels and fish flows and the effects of these levels on both anadromous and resident fish populations. There is concern related to the current Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (BiOp): many noted that the current BiOp figured prominently in the alternatives, and asserted that this should not be relied on, given that the BiOp is likely to change. They hoped that the alternative analysis wasn't being unnecessarily constrained by the current BiOp.
Flood Control: Effective Use and Called Upon
These terms were the focus of many questions during the stakeholder listening sessions. Participants wondered exactly what they meant, when they would come into play, and the monetary and environmental costs associated with each of them.
Revised Approaches to Flood Control
There were numerous questions about possible approaches to flood control that go beyond the current reliance on levees. Participants wondered about levee removal, for example, and reconnecting flood plains. Groundwater recharge was also suggested as a possibility for diverting and storing water, and thereby alleviating flood risk.
Flood Risk Management: 450 and 600 kcfs
Attendees wondered how 450 and 600 kcfs (as measured at the Dalles Dam in Oregon) had been determined, and the impacts of these two levels on river flows. They are interested in the continued evaluation of flood risk possibilities, especially in relation to the higher 600 kcfs level.
Preferential and Slice Customers
Utility representatives in attendance want to know how they might be treated if the Treaty is modified or terminated.
System Reliability and Flexibility
Stakeholders are concerned about the long-term reliability and flexibility of the hydropower system and don't want either compromised if the Treaty is terminated or modified. Would the current system actually be enhanced through a modified Treaty?
Uncertainty of Canadian Operations and Assumptions
Is the analysis currently being performed in the United States connected to, and integrated with, the Treaty analysis underway in Canada? There is an uncertainty about how Canada might operate without a Treaty, and participants want to make sure this was being adequately accounted for and addressed in the CRT Review modeling.
There is concern about water supply issues related to the Treaty. Irrigation is a primary concern, but water supply needs also extend to municipal and industrial sources of supply. Stakeholders are concerned that water supply is being treated through an impact assessment process rather than as a primary driving purpose in the CRT Review process.
For more information or to Review the entire report visit the The Columbia River Treaty 2014/2024 Review.
Reservoir levels fluctuate to regulate water flows downstream of the dam. When demand for power is low, the flow through the turbines is cut back and the storage space is filled; when demand for power is high, the flow through the turbines is increased and water levels are lowered. The storage of water in reservoirs is used to change the shape of the releases from the dam and to change generation levels both at the dam and downstream of the dam.
The general cycle of reservoirs in the interior of BC is to draft down across the fall and winter, reaching a low point in early spring. The reservoir then refills during the spring/early summer when high runoff occurs. The reservoirs' levels and discharge releases from the dams are managed to meet multiple objectives both in the reservoir and in the downstream river including power, flood control, fish and wildlife, heritage, recreation and navigation.
Fortis BC - www.fortisbc.com or call 1.866.436.7847
BC Hydro - www.bchydro.com or call 1.877.924.244