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84 ChangingValues Managing Transboundary Natural Resources: An Assessment of the Need to Revise and Update the Columbia River Treaty Matthew McKinney introduction Historical Perspective The Columbia River Basin is the fourth largest river basin in the United States, equal to the size of France (see Appendix A). It includes parts of Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia (Lang 2010; Lang and Carriker 1999). The Columbia River has ten times the flow of the Colorado River and two and one-half times the flow of the Nile River. It is one of the most hydroelectrically developed river systems in the world, with a generating capacity of more than 21 million kilowatts.There are eleven dams on the main stem in the United States and three in Canada, in addition to more than four hundred other dams for irrigation and hydropower on tributaries.While this infrastructure has generated many benefits in the form of power and flood control, many people argue that it has adversely impacted fish, navigation, irrigation, recreation, and indigenous cultures. In 1944, planners in Canada and the United States recognized that cooperative development of the basin might generate more benefits than each country acting independently (U.S.Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville PowerAdministration 2009).The planners requested that the International Joint Commission (IJC) study the feasibility of cooperative development in the Columbia Basin. From 1944 to 1959, the IJC studied a range of options to cooperatively develop and manage resources within the basin. Following years of negotiation, the governments of Canada and the United States ratified the Columbia River Treaty and Protocol in 1964. The “Treaty Between the United States of America and Canada Relating to Cooperative Development of the Water Resources of the Columbia River Basin” (CRT) is considered one of the most far-reaching water treaties in the world (15.2 U.S.T. 1964).1 It required Canada to build three new storage dams—Keenleyside, Duncan and Mica (referred to as The Treaty Dams)—to optimize flows for hydroelectric power and flood control in both nations.The Treaty Dams provide more constant year-round streamflows, as spring floods from snowmelt are held Managing Transboundary Natural Resources 85 back and released throughout the year. In return for building the dams, Canada is compensated by the United States through two mechanisms that have efficiently transferred hundreds of millions of dollars annually. First, the United States paid Canada for half of the estimated flood control benefits provided by theTreaty Dams until 2024 (after 2024 the U.S.will pay operating costs and economic losses for any requested Canadian flood control operation). Second, the treaty set-up a system in which the United States compensates Canada for one-half of the downstream hydroelectric power benefits generated by the upstream storage dams (known as the “Canadian Entitlement”). Canada also retains the rights to use all of the power generated by the Canadian Treaty Dams. The CRT is considered by some experts to be one of the most sophisticated transboundary natural resource treaties in the world. Unlike other international water treaties, it does not focus on allocating fixed quantities of water, but rather allocates a mix of “benefits” to each country.The primary benefits of the CRT— hydroelectric power, flood control, and compensation—were largely fixed in 1964. The governance of the Columbia River under the original CRT thereby excludes many of the values that society has found increasingly important in the intervening years, particularly the quality and quantity in-stream flows for ecosystem health, as well as legal obligations to tribes for treaty-based water and fishery resources. The administration of the CRT is governed by what are commonly referred to as the“Entities”—including the Bonneville PowerAdministration andArmy Corps of Engineers from the United States, and BC Hydro from Canada. A Permanent Engineer Board is responsible for the preparing and approving anAnnual Operating Plan.Appendix B presents an organizational chart for the CRT. The CRT does not have an expiration date. However, after sixty years of implementation (no sooner than 2024) the treaty can be terminated and renegotiated as long as either the United States or Canada give at least ten years notice of their intent to terminate.2 The flood control agreement expires in 2024.3 While these deadlines may seem to be beyond the planning horizon of most political decision makers, many professionals involved in management of the basin have started to think about how, if at all, the CRT might be revised...


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