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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Alper, Donald K.
Stewart, Mart A.
At the end of World War II the United States embarked on an ambitious agenda of dam construction to stimulate the economy of the Pacific Northwest. A complete hydroelectric system was planned, including upstream storage dams that would moderate the river's seasonal flow fluctuations and downstream run of river dams that would produce electricity with the modified flow. Assigned to the politically powerful Army Corps of Engineers, the downstream dams proceeded on schedule, while the upstream dams stalled under the direction of the weaker Interior Department. The United States was left in an untenable situation where the downstream dams would sit losing money for most of the year, unable to produce sufficient electricity to repay their cost of construction with the river's unmoderated flow. Political opposition and environmental pressures ultimately coalesced to halt the construction of the upstream dams in the United States, and made Canada the most feasible location for adding upstream storage. This plan ultimately became the 1964 Columbia River Treaty. To fishery advocates, the Treaty was an attractive plan because previous dam construction had made salmon runs extinct on the Canadian Columbia, whereas salmon still ran on the American tributaries where upstream storage had been previously proposed. As such, this study finds that contrary to what has previously been understood about the Columbia River Treaty, the United States pursued the agreement in part out of environmental motives. The construction of three dams in British Columbia under the Treaty ultimately had significant negative ecological consequences for valleys flooded out by reservoirs, and the elimination of seasonal floods was detrimental to salmon runs downstream in the United States.
Western Washington University
Columbia River Watershed; Northwest, Pacific; British Columbia
Copying of this thesis in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.
Smith, Elliott C. (Elliott Charles), "The place of the environment in the Columbia River Treaty" (2012). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. 195.