After a disastrous flood of the Columbia River demolished much of the area of Trail, B.C., to Vanport, Oregon in 1948, interest in flood control grew across the West Coast.
A Federal response came in 1964, in the form of Prime Minister Diefenbaker and President Eisenhower’s arrangement of the Columbia River Treaty. It served as an agreement between Canada and the United States for the development and operation of a series of dams with the purpose of power production and flood control.
One of the conditions of the Treaty was the Canadian Entitlement, the ongoing payment of one-half of the profit generated by the U.S downstream power. In addition, the American Government made a one-time monetary installment of 64.4 million dollars for the operations flood control benefits. In return, British Columbia was to provide flood control, both annual and on-call water release to meet power demands.
Three British Columbian dams were created under the Treaty with a fourth built across the border in the state of Montana. The establishment of the Libby dam, located in Libby, MT, provided further active storage in the Koocanusa reservoir. However, its establishment caused large-scale flooding into areas of the Columbia Basin and the subsequent displacement of many residents. The Columbia Basin Trust was established to address the long-term socio-economic impacts in British Columbia that resulted from this flooding. Many are stilled concerned about the social and economic impacts to local communities while others praise the enormous economic benefits to British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest through hydroelectric generation.
In more recent years, the Treaty has gained significant attention due to the growing body of evidence on the environmental impacts associated with large-scale damning. Before the construction of the dams, water levels in the Columbia River and its drainages rose and fell with the changing season. After the establishment of the Treaty, river flow was severely altered. Water during high floods began to cover much of the Columbia Valley’s arable land and caused significant soil erosion and damage to the habitat of many native species. One of the most noticeable changes to the wildlife population in the Columbia Valley area is the disappearance of anadromous fish, such as the Sockeye and Chinook Salmon. Pre-dam currents on the Columbia efficiently carried fry to the ocean and allowed for undisturbed movements, but the present obstructions make it nearly impossible for spawning fish to reach their upstream hatcheries.
On May 29th, 2018, it was announced that Canada and the United States would launch negotiations to renew and modernize the Columbia River Treaty. In preparation for these upcoming negotiations, both the Provincial and Federal Governments have been working together and seeking input from Indigenous Nations and local governments.
The Lake Windermere Ambassadors will be holding an information night to help facilitate discussion and to update the community about recently launched negotiations and current issues related to the Treaty and its history.
For more information and to join the discussion, come to our
Columbia River Treaty Info Night
Wednesday, June 27th at 6:30 pm, at the old CPR Lodge in Invermere, BC.