Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Joint Statement With Prime Minister Pearson on the Columbia River Agreement

January 22, 1964

President Johnson and Prime Minister Pearson presided today at the White House at the signing of further important agreements between the two governments regarding the cooperative development of the water resources of the Columbia River Basin. Mr. Rusk, Secretary of State, signed for the United States, and Mr. Martin, Secretary of State for External Affairs, signed for Canada.

The arrangements which are now being made will be of great benefit to both countries, particularly to the province of British Columbia in Canada and to the States of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon in the United States. Today's signing took place in the presence of representatives of the area on both sides of the border.

The downstream power benefits resulting from increased generation in the United States are to be shared by the two countries, and the United States is to compensate Canada for the flood protection which it receives. Effective storage amounting to 15,500,000 acre-feet will be provided in Canada from two dams on the main stem of the Columbia at Mica Creek and Arrow Lakes, and from one dam near Duncan Lake, all in British Columbia. The additional storage approximately doubles that presently available for regulation of the flows of the Columbia River.

Under the terms of the treaty, the United States has the option to commence construction of the Libby project on the Kootenai River in northern Montana with 5,000,000 acre-feet of usable storage. Canada and the United States each will retain all of the benefits from the Libby project which accrue in their respective countries.

At the Hyannis Port meeting in May 1963 President Kennedy and Prime Minister Pearson "noted especially the desirability of early progress on the cooperative development of the Columbia River. The Prime Minister indicated that if certain clarifications and adjustments in arrangements proposed earlier could be agreed on, to be included in a protocol to the treaty, the Canadian Government would consult at once with the provincial Government of British Columbia, the province in which the Canadian portion of the river is located, with a view to proceeding promptly with the further detailed negotiations required with the United States and with the necessary action for approval within Canada. The President agreed that both Governments should immediately undertake discussions on this subject, looking to an early agreement."

These things have now been done. The way has been cleared for the completion of the necessary financial and related arrangements in the United States and the ratification of the treaty by Canada.

The primary purpose of the first set of documents signed today was to agree now on the clarifications and adjustments that would eliminate possible sources of controversy between the two countries in later years. These documents contain important, if rather technical, provisions regarding such varied matters as conditions governing flood control; the intention to complete arrangements for the initial sale of Canada's share of the downstream power benefits at the time when ratifications of the treaty are exchanged; the avoidance by Canada of standby transmission charges in the event of sales of downstream benefits in the United States; provision for cooperation in connection with the operation of the Libby Dam in the light of the Canadian benefits from it; clarification regarding water diversions; the procedures relating to hydroelectric operating plans; the adoption of a longer stream flow period as a basis for calculating downstream power benefits; various matters relating to power load calculations; adjustments to be considered in the event of the provision of flood control by Canada ahead of schedule; the avoidance of any precedent regarding waters other than those of the Columbia River Basin; and clarification regarding the position of the boundary waters treaty of 1909•

The other set of documents relates to the arrangement to be made for the sale of the Canadian entitlement to downstream power benefits for a period limited to 30 years. The arrangements which the two governments have agreed upon will be beneficial to the United States in facilitating the coming into force of the treaty and thereby removing uncertainty about the availability of power and flood control protection for the northwestern part of the United States for a considerable period of time. Equally, they will benefit Canada by removing uncertainty about the return to be received by Canada from the Columbia River development during the first 30 years after the completion of each dam.

The treaty, together with the arrangements now being made, represents an important step in achieving optimum development of the water resources of the Columbia River Basin as a whole, from which the United States and Canada will each receive benefits materially larger than either could obtain independently.

The arrangements fully respect the sovereignty and the interests of the two countries. As was said in the Hyannis Port Communiqué, "Close cooperation across the border can enhance rather than diminish the sovereignty of each country by making it stronger and more prosperous than before."

Note: In the fifth and in the last paragraphs reference is made to the May 11, 1963, joint statement of President Kennedy and Prime Minister Pearson following discussions at Hyannis Port, Mass. (see "Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy 1963," Item 179).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Joint Statement With Prime Minister Pearson on the Columbia River Agreement Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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