Canada water pact aids salmon, hydro

By Steven Johnson
May 3, 2012

BPA and the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority have signed an agreement that officials say will help better manage water flows on the upper Columbia River in Canada.

That could help BPA as it tries to control hydro and wind generation, while safeguarding the region’s $800 million annual investment in fish and wildlife protection.

“This agreement supports both the environmental and economic health of the Northwest,” said Steve Wright, BPA administrator. “It shapes the release of water to aid migrating salmon and helps produce electric power at times when it is most needed.”

The pact, which runs through 2024, is separate from a 50-year-old treaty between the United States and Canada concerning hydropower and flood control along the Columbia River.

BPA will have access to about half of the 5 million acre-feet of storage at Mica Dam in Canada, which has an additional 7 million acre-feet of storage required by the longstanding U.S.-Canada treaty. An acre-foot is equal to covering one acre of surface area with one foot of water.

That means BPA, which markets wholesale power to co-ops and Northwest utilities, will be able to reduce the flow of water in the spring and then increase the flow during dry periods.

The Non-Treaty Storage Agreement also provides more flexibility to reduce flows from British Columbia. That’s important because high water spills contain dissolved gas levels that can harm young salmon.

BPA and BC Hydro will be able to hold on to the surplus until market conditions become favorable, though officials said the two agencies will have to agree annually on water management plans.

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