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What’s it worth?

With the Columbia River Treaty due to expire in 2014, there may be room to negotiate financial benefits for fruit growers on this side of the border.

Banks Lake, in south-central Washington, is a major storage site for irrigation water from the Columbia River. By Judie Steeves

treaty’s provisions. That means termination notice


hen the Columbia River Treaty was signed by Canada in 1964,

Washington State’s apple production was about three times that of British Columbia, at 465,000 tons to 155,000 tons. Today, production in Washington

has soared to 40 times the B.C. total, with record production this year of 2.2 million tons. And, it has plummeted to about 54,000 tons in B.C.

“That’s clearly linked to the water

we make available to Washington State growers through the Columbia River Treaty,” says Glen Lucas, general manager of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association. Infrastructure was built by the U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers to pump water from the Columbia River into Banks Lake, which is about 150 kilometres south of the border, to provide a consistent supply of water for irrigation without drawing down the water level behind the Grand Coulee Dam, he notes. Even the power used for pumping

water from the river into the lake for storage is subsidized. In fact, it has been known to take precedence over power production, Lucas says. The treaty reaches its 60th anniversary in 2024, and, with a minimum of 10 years of written advance notice, at that point, either country can terminate most of the

could be given as early as 2014 by either country, although without such notice, it could continue on, as-is, indefinitely. The alternative is to re- negotiate the treaty, so studies are underway in both countries that could lead to points they wish to re-negotiate. “Without us storing and releasing water downstream, Washington’s apple industry couldn’t have grown that much in the past and it won’t be able to continue to grow,” Lucas comments. The industry needed

water for irrigation in the past and it will need more in the future, he says, so there is a case to be made for future compensation for B.C. growers. That money wouldn’t come to individual growers, but as funding for programs to benefit all growers, such as replant, deer fencing, worker housing, water infrastructure, Sterile Insect Release or Integrated Pest Management, Lucas noted. To make growers’ case, the BCFGA

has requested that the provincial agriculture ministry ensure agriculture is included in the review process, which currently involves a

working group from the provincial ministry of energy and mines. As well, he said the agriculture minister has been asked to provide the industry with a resource economist to help determine the value of this irrigation to the U.S. for its agriculture sector. The data gathered

would be used to prove the case that agriculture in B.C. is due compensation for the treaty, and to quantify the financial value. Only flood control

Glen Lucas

and power generation were included in the original treaty, yet U.S. agriculture benefited as well, to the detriment of the B.C. industry. In order to have that included

in a re-negotiated treaty, it would have to be quantified, Lucas explains. New agriculture minister Norm Letnick says he agrees that agriculture should have some input, and he says he is trying, through diplomatic channels, to have agriculture accepted in discussions. However, Lucas suggests that growers should speak to their MLAs about the importance of including agriculture at the table discussing re- negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Winter 2012-13 9

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