The primary objective of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty (CRT) is: to store water upstream (mostly in Canada) for use downstream (mostly in the US). The treaty accomplishes its goal through dams and the storage reservoirs behind them.
The word reservoir originates from the French réservoir, or, “storehouse.” A reservoir reserves water for future use. The upper Columbia storage reservoirs must be drained just before spring snowmelt begins, so that they can be filled again. This draining is called “the draw down.”
In my research, I’ve spent a lot of time at the edges of the reservoirs during draw down. In this season of the treaty that the truth of the ecological losses can truly be measured. By summer, water has covered the land where nothing can grow.
Glacier Creek empties into Duncan Lake Reservoir. Historically, the mouth of the creek would have been surrounded by willows, cottonwoods, cedar and maybe some moisture-loving hemlock.
A member of the Duncan River valley’s lost forest clings to the sides of the drained reservoir
Arrow Lakes Reservoir is the closest to the US-Canada border. When it drains in spring, the river valley exposes how reservoirs convert formerly riparian or forested terrain into wasteland
Some moments, an elegiac beauty persists, even in the drained reservoirs.
And then, there is Mica, holding back water in Kinbasket Reservoir, the largest and deepest artificial basin. Lack of foresight and higher spring melt than predicted in the years after the dam was completed meant that much uncut or recently felled forest did not make it to the sawmill. Ghosts of this wasteful travesty remain.