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Dams of the Columbia Basin & Their Effects on the Native Fishery

Bonneville * The Dalles * John Day & McNary * Priest Rapids & Wanapum * Rock Island, Rocky Reach, Wells & Chief Joseph * Grand Coulee * Ice Harbor, Lower Monument, Little Goose & Lower Granite * Hells Canyon, Oxbow, Brownlee & Dworshak

Revelstoke Dam: B.C. Canada, Upper Columbia River mile marker 882, constructed in 1984. Revelstoke dam forms Lake Revelstoke. It is a concrete hydroelectric gravity dam, owned and operated by BC Hydro. The dam operates in balance with the Mica reservoir but was not constructed under the terms of the1964 Columbia River Treaty with the U.S.
Revelstoke Dam. Courtesy of British Columbia Hydro


The Columbia River Treaty was an agreement between the United States and Canada that funded Canadian dams (Mica, Keeleyside, and Duncan) and Montana's Libby Dam, whose reservoir extends into Canada, with U.S. money. The United States gained flood control and power benefits from these storage dams. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker signed the treaty on 17 January 1961. The U.S. Senate quickly ratified the treaty but the Canadian Parliment feared that the U.S. had more to gain than did Canadians. They refused to ratify the treaty until the U.S. agreed to purchase excess power generated in British Columbia, power for which the province had no use. The U.S. Northwest treated the power as surplus and sold it to the American Southwest.

The treaty is a coordinated plan that viewed the Columbia River Basin as a transnational system. The storage dams built in Canada meant that downriver users were no longer dependent on seasonal river flows. The storage dams ensure the necessary amount of water will be in the riverbed to meet hydroelectric demands regardless of season within the basin and beyond its borders. In the words of journalist William Dietrich, "No longer were hydropower agencies at the mercy of seasonal flows. Now they could turn the Columbia on and off like a faucet."


Kennleyside Dam. Courtesy of British Columbia Hydro
Keenleyside Dam: B.C. Canada, Columbia River, mile marker 770, completed in 1968, owned and operated by BC Hydro. Keenleyside is a earthfill and concrete gravity dam that has four spillways and eight low level ports. It does not have a powerhouse at present and operates only to provide water storage in accordance with the Columbia River Treaty.

Mica Dam: Upper Columbia River, mile marker 956.0, B.C. Canada, completed in 1973,with a powerhouse added in 1977. Mica is owned and operated by BC Hydro. Mica is an earthfill embankment dam, 800 feet in height. It was built in accordance to the Columbia River Treaty to provide water storage for flood control and power.
Mica Dam. Courtesy of British Columbia Hydro


Duncan Dam. Courtesy of British Columbia Hydro
Duncan Dam: B.C. Canada, Duncan River, completed in 1967, owned and operated by BC Hydro. Duncan was the first of the three Columbia River Treaty dams built in the Canadian section of the Basin. It is an earthfill dam with no power generation facilities, meant to control the flow of water from the Duncan River into Kootenay Lake. ÝThe dam functions in conjunction with the Libby Dam to assure operational water levels for the Kootenay Canal and the Corra Linn projects downstream.

Columbia River Treaty