The United States and Canada began negotiations in May 2018 with the objective of developing a modernized Columbia River Treaty regime that serves the people of the Columbia River Basin on both sides of the border, including members of several Tribal and Indigenous Nations.
The U.S. Department of State is leading the U.S. team in negotiations with Canada. The U.S. Government’s key objectives include continued, careful management of flood risk; ensuring a reliable and economical power supply; and improving the ecosystem in a modernized Treaty regime.
Discussions with Canada have focused on water flowing across the border, namely from the Canadian Treaty projects—Keenleyside (also known as Arrow), Duncan and Mica dams—and from Libby Dam in the United States. These projects together are collectively known as the “Treaty Projects.”
The Treaty provisions regarding Canada’s obligations to operate its reservoirs for U.S. flood risk management change on September 16, 2024. The United States secured an obligation from Canada to provide a degree of flood risk management when the Treaty was originally signed, that obligation continues so long as Canada has dams in the basin that contribute to flood risk reduction in the United States. The first 60 years of that obligation were handled on a pre-planned and pre-paid basis. In 2024, the 60 years of pre-planned flood storage in the Canadian Treaty dams sunsets and is replaced with terms that allow the United States and Canada to coordinate FRM operations and payment for FRM differently, by using what is known as "Called Upon" or “real-time” operations. This provision means that the United States can call upon Canada for assistance when necessary to meet U.S. flood risk management needs. The United States would need to continue to operate its reservoirs to reduce flood peaks in periods when it calls on Canadian reservoir storage, as it does today. The Treaty has a corresponding change on the payment side, which would require the United States to compensate Canada based on the economic loss shown to arise directly from any foregone use of the relevant reservoir space during the flood period.
The U.S. Government is proactively negotiating a modernized agreement that would continue to benefit both countries and reduce the potential frequency or magnitude of reliance on Canadian storage through a “Called upon” or real-time basis.