The B.C. government has announced it wants to keep the historic Columbia River Treaty, but negotiate several improvements.
The treaty, signed in 1961 by Canada and the United States, resulted in the construction of four dams on the Columbia River that flooded hundreds of kilometres of once pristine valleys in southeastern B.C. for the purposes of flood control and hydroelectric power generation.
Both governments have to decide this year if they want to terminate the treaty by 2024.
Last year, the U.S. announced it wants to renegotiate the agreement with a stronger focus on climate change and aiding endangered species. The B.C. government, which is negotiating on behalf of Canada, has now announced it wants to keep the treaty in tact, with a few modifications.
The U.S. currently pays up to $300 million every year to rent the valleys for water storage. B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett says in exchange the U.S. is getting flood control, power generation and a lot more from the deal. Therefore, the entitlement payments should stay.
"We're spilling water to assist the U.S. with endangered fish. They get water for navigation and irrigation. There are a number of benefits the Americans get from the operation and coordination of Canadians dams. We would like to talk to them about that," said Bennett.
The province also does not want to include the return of salmon in a renewed treating, stating that there are older dams on the Columbia River that stop salmon.
The U.S. says it is formalizing its position on the treaty, and is expected to announce its decision this fall.