Columbia River dams

Jessica Robinson

A little-known fact about Columbia River dams is that a valuable chunk of the power generated on the U.S. side goes to Canada under an international treaty. Northwest utilities say your power rates would be lower if that electricity could be sold to California instead of being delivered to Canada for free.

This week in Spokane, the biggest players in the trans-national river basin are debating whether to extend that 50-year-old treaty.

DAR56 / Wikimedia commons

Your power bill could be cheaper if the U.S. didn't send so much electricity north of the border every year. Canada lays claim to around $300 million worth of hydropower annually under the terms of a 50-year-old treaty.

In return, the Canadians manage the upper Columbia River to prevent downstream flooding and to optimize power production. The Columbia River Treaty can be renegotiated soon and there are voices on both sides of the border clamoring for a better deal.