Ditto Asks President Biden To Prioritize Modernization Of The Columbia River Treaty

April 7, 2022

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
April 7, 2022

President Biden should direct the State Department and a negotiating team working under National Security Council officials to move faster on renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty with a particular emphasis on the rebalancing the power provisions between the U.S. and Canada, Joy Ditto, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA) in an April 4 letter to Biden.

“Failure to act quickly on negotiations will continue to cost American consumers millions of dollars a year, as well as the continued loss of renewable, baseload hydropower important to keeping the grid reliable,” Ditto wrote in the letter.

She noted that public power has a heavy footprint in the Pacific Northwest, where community-owned electric utilities buy power generated on the Federal Columbia River System (FCRS) marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

BPA rates are set to cover all generation and transmission costs, as well as repayment, with interest, of the federal hydroelectric projects. None of the costs are borne by taxpayers.

“This multi-decade partnership has proven wildly successful, providing affordable, emissions-free, and reliable power that has served as the cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest’s economy since 1937. However, this success is increasingly threatened by the outdated Columbia River Treaty that has American ratepayers losing $150 million a year in lost hydropower value to Canada,” Ditto said.

The U.S. and Canada agreed to the Columbia River Treaty in 1964 for the mutual development of the Columbia River power and flood control systems.

Under the Treaty, the U.S. provides payments to Canada, called the Canadian Entitlement (CE), in the form of returned power generation. The CE amount is calculated using a formula from 1961, which was based on the expected improvement to U.S. hydropower generation capability due to Canadian storage.

Today, these calculations exceed the actual benefits of coordinated operations by an estimated 70-90 percent. “An equitable rebalancing of this problem is worth more than a billion dollars to U.S. consumers at a time when many are already facing rising energy prices,” Ditto wrote.

“I strongly urge you to direct the State Department and the entire negotiating team working under National Security Council officials to move faster on renegotiating the treaty with a particular emphasis on the rebalancing the power provisions between the U.S. and Canada,” Ditto said. “Making full use of the nation’s hydropower resource is key to ensuring that the nation’s grid remains reliable and resilient, and that utilities can meet emission reduction goals to address climate change.”

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