One step builds on another…
|Peace On Earth|
|Peace On Earth|
Thank you for contacting me about the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and sincerely regret the delayed response.
As you may know, the Columbia River originates in British Columbia, Canada. Roughly 15 percent of the 259,500 square miles of the Columbia River Basin is in Canada, while the remaining 85 percent is within the United States. In the 1940s, the governments of the United States and Canada entered into discussions to find a solution to Columbia River flooding and to increase energy production to accommodate rising energy demand. The Columbia River Treaty was negotiated and signed by both countries in 1961 and implemented in 1964. The Treaty governs the cooperative development of water resources to benefit both countries, including flood prevention and energy production in the upper Columbia River Basin.
The Treaty, as originally designed, shared the benefits from cooperative water management with both countries equitably. Canada was required to provide flood control and water storage with the operation of the three large dams on the upper Columbia. In exchange for the water storage projects for increased power, the Treaty requires the U.S. to pay Canada half of the estimated downstream power benefits. This payment is known as the Canadian Entitlement. The U.S. also had to make a one-time payment for half of the estimated value of future flood damages prevented in the U.S. during the first 60 years of the Treaty. The U.S. paid Canada a total of $64 million for the flood control benefits.
Due to changes in benefits over time, the United States is preparing to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty with Canada. Preliminary analysis suggests that the Canadian Entitlement is now much greater than 50 percent of the power benefits received by the United States. Although the Treaty has no specified termination date, it allows either Canada or the United States to terminate it at any time after September 16, 2024. The Treaty requires providing 10 years of written notice before termination, which means that September 2014 is the first opportunity to do so.
The U.S. Entity, comprised of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has been analyzing several options for the treaty after 2024. As you may know, the U.S. Entity released a working draft of its regional recommendation on June 27, 2013. This draft outlined "a modern framework for the Treaty that balances power production, flood risk management, and ecosystem-based function as the primary purposes." It also identified water supply, recreation, navigation, and climate change as other important elements. The U.S. Entity plans to incorporate feedback from regional stakeholders in its draft recommendation that will be subject to further public comment and review. It plans to conclude this multi-year review process and provide a final recommendation by the end of 2013. Following that recommendation, the U.S. State Department will lead a team of the U.S. Entity and other agencies and will enter into formal negotiation with Canada.
Under the Constitution, the U.S. Senate must advise and consent to international treaties. Two-thirds of the Senate must approve a treaty before it can be adopted. Please be assured that I take this Constitutional responsibility very seriously, and I will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue to consider this issue.
United States Senator
For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at
|James Leisenring 1878-1951|