Cash-strapped Washington State seeks funding to build new dam in British Columbia

Legislative accountability needed for millions spent by State’s dam-building agency.

  • Jan. 14, 2015 12:00 p.m.

Yesterday Sierra Club sent a letter to Gov. Inslee and Department Director Maia Bellon opposing Washington State funding a new dam in Canada.  The state’s Office of Columbia River (OCR), the dam-building arm of the Department of Ecology, has proposed allocating $1.6 million to a private utility to study building a new dam on the Similkameen River in British Columbia.  The Washington Legislature recently convened, and will vote on funding requests for the Office of Columbia River.

“Our cash-strapped state government is wasting millions of tax dollars on new dams and other water projects, this time in British Columbia,” said John Osborn, a Spokane physician who coordinates the Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project.  “Office of Columbia River operates as a political-rewards slush fund for irrigated agriculture. The Legislature convening this week needs to account for these public funds.”

In 2013, Fortis BC, (a subsidiary of Fortis Inc. based in St. John’s, Nfld.) applied for permits to conduct studies on the Crown land required for the reservoir (12 miles long) and the dam site for a 541-foot-high concrete dam in the Similkameen Canyon, 9 miles upstream from Princeton, with a generation capacity of 45-65 megawatts.  To pay for the project, Fortis approached downstream parties in the United States with interests in hydropower and irrigation.

On September 4, 2014, Fortis announced that it was not moving forward with the new dam “at this time.”   The utility “may re-evaluate the viability of the project in the future based on customer demand and market conditions.”  On September 17, Ecology Director Bellon submitted a request to fund Fortis to study building a new dam as part of the agency’s 2015-17 budget.

“The Similkameen River has been identified as one of B.C.’s top ten most endangered rivers. A new dam on the Similkameen will provide bulk water for American water users, without any consideration of the impacts here in B.C.” said Bob Peart, Sierra Club BC’s Executive Director. “Fortis’ proposal seems designed to avoid triggering any kind of regulatory review. It is imperative that this proposed dam undergo a full review by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and/or the B.C. Utilities Commission.”

The record of the United States funding dam construction in Canada shows benefits for the United States and British Columbia – while also creating a legacy of problems. For example, the Columbia River Treaty led to the construction of the three “treaty dams” in Canada, permanently flooding valuable wildlife habitat and agricultural areas while forcing 2,500 people from their homes.  Controversy also arose with a dam to permanently flood the Skagit Valley in B.C. for the benefit of Seattle City Light.

“The water frontier is over,” added Osborn.  “Given the over-appropriation of our rivers and aquifers, climate change, and limits to public funding, the elected officials need to insist on affordable, ethical, and sustainable solutions to water scarcity.”

Just Posted

Castlegar Millennium Ponds opening soon

The ponds will be open for swimming any day.

Castlegar council approves Columbia Ave. Phase 2 cross section

Three traffic lanes, bicycle lane, sidewalks, furniture, baskets, banners and trees part of plan

Women, children escaping domestic violence have few options in Nelson

The 11th annual Report Card on Homelessness shows a need for women’s housing

RDCK asks province for more powers to regulate private land logging

‘If the province won’t step up, we will have to’

First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

Seventh round of negotiations between Canada and U.S. wrap up in Washington D.C.

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Thieves steal two $40K chairs featuring gold serpents from B.C. furniture store

Chairs believed to be the only two of its kind in Canada, police said

Rising gas prices force B.C. residents to rethink summer road trips: poll

63 per cent of respondents reported gas prices are impacting their day-to-day finances

Most Read