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Minister Bill Bennet comments on Columbia River Treaty 50th anniversary

By Contributor
September 17th, 2014

Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett issued the following statement today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Columbia River Treaty:

“On September 16, 1964, B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and United States President Lyndon B. Johnson met at the International Peace Arch Boundary at Blaine Washington and Surrey, B.C. and ratified the Columbia River Treaty.

“Today the Treaty is known throughout the world as one of the most successful models of trans-boundary water management.

“Since the Treaty dams – Duncan, Arrow (now Keenleyside), Mica and Libby – were constructed there has never been a flood causing major damage along the Columbia River. Co-ordination under the Treaty allows the hydroelectric system to respond to seasonal challenges during both high and low flow periods. Hydro power generated by the dams provides clean, reliable and renewable energy throughout British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.

“But as we mark the anniversary of the Treaty it is also important to acknowledge the historic and continuing impacts. Two-hundred and seventy thousand hectares of Canadian ecosystems were inundated. Residents and communities were displaced and economic opportunities lost. Treaty operations continue to impact the Columbia basin where some reservoirs fluctuate by as much as 47metres (155 feet).

“Although the Treaty has no specified end date, either Canada or the U.S. can unilaterally terminate most of the agreement provisions as early as September 16, 2024, provided 10 years notice is given.

“In March 2014, informed by a two-year Treaty review process that included extensive public and First Nations consultation, the Government of British Columbia announced its decision to continue the Columbia Treaty and seek improvements within its existing framework.

“The primary goal of the Treaty from our perspective is to create and equitably share benefits from trans-boundary co-operation with the United States, recognizing that British Columbia is impacted by Treaty operations. We have identified 14 principles that will guide British Columbia in any discussions on the future of the Treaty with Canada and the United States.

“In the United States a federal interagency review of the Treaty continues under the direction of the National Security Council on behalf of the President of the United States.

“In B.C. we continue to engage with First Nations, residents and elected officials in the Columbia Basin, we’re in discussions with the Government of Canada on developing a collaborative approach to any future negotiations, and we’re working to ensure U.S. stakeholders, legislators and decision makers understand British Columbia’s perspectives and principles on the Treaty.

“The Columbia River Treaty has shaped lives and communities in the Columbia River basin and around our entire province for fifty years. We’re committed to working collaboratively with all Treaty partners to achieve improvements in the Treaty and make it better for future generations.”

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