British Columbia

Columbia River Treaty turns 50, but will it reach 60?

As of today, the clock starts ticking down on one of the most important documents signed since B.C. joined confederation.

Either Canada or the U.S. can now unilaterally terminate the treaty with 10 years' notice

This June 1, 2011 file photo shows the largest dam in the U.S.—the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington State. Last year, U.S. negotiators were proposing to elevate ecosystem functions to the same level as hydroelectric power production and flood control as goals of river management in a renewed Columbia River Treaty with Canada. (Nicholas K. Geranios/Associated Press)

As of today, the clock starts ticking down on one of the most important documents signed since B.C. joined confederation.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 16, 1964, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, Prime Minister Lester Pearson and British Columbia Premier W.A.C. Bennett met near the Peace Arch border crossing and ratified the Columbia River Treaty.

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The cross-border deal manages the flow of the Columbia River and has transformed the landscape from the B.C. Columbia and Kootenay regions through Washington State and to the Oregon coast.

​Both B.C. and the U.S. are reviewing the complex treaty, which determines how water flows, dams, electricity generation and billions in revenues are managed and shared.

And, as of today, either country can unilaterally terminate the treaty with 10 years' notice.

B.C. has drawn up 14 principles it would like to see addressed in a renegotiated treaty, but has not committed to keeping or scrapping it.

The American stance on the treaty is before the president and the State Department, which is expected to formalize and announce its demands this fall.

The Duncan Dam, in the Purcell Mountains, is one of three B.C. dams built as part of the Columbia River Treaty, which was ratified in 1964. In return for building the Mica, Keenleyside and Duncan dams, which provide water storage for power generation in the U.S., B.C. is entitled to half the additional power generated because of the water storage. (Government of B.C.)

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating

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