03/13/2014 08:00 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. seeks to improve Columbia River Treaty, rejects termination option

VICTORIA - British Columbia has served notice it wants to negotiate improvements to the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty signed between the United States and Canada.

The United States and B.C — negotiating on behalf of Canada — say they want to modernize the existing treaty that prevents flooding through a series of dams and reservoirs constructed along the Columbia River in southeast B.C. and northeast Washington state.

Canada and U.S. have until next September to serve notice that they want to terminate the treaty by 2024.

Last December, the Americans signalled that they want to revisit the treaty because of concerns about the hundreds of millions of dollars B.C. receives from power generated by the U.S. hydro-electric dams and the loss of fish habitat.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett says any new treaty talks must focus on calculating the benefits that flood control and water management provides to Americans who live downstream.

A massive flood in Oregon in 1948 that killed 15 people and forced 18,500 to flee with 35 minutes notice was a major impetus for the international flood-control treaty.