High Ross Treaty, Bob Royer, Seattle Deputy Mayor, Skagit Environment Endowment Commission

Bob Royer accomplished what he later described as his life’s singular achievement when he helped negotiate an end to the High Ross Dam controversy. In 1967, Seattle City Light and the Canadian province of British Columbia signed an agreement that would have allowed the City of Seattle to raise Ross Dam, located in northern Whatcom County just south of the Canadian border, in order to generate more electricity for Seattle. However, while the dam was in Washington, Ross Lake, which formed behind it, stretched north into British Columbia, and raising the dam would have flooded B.C. lands further. Controversy over the agreement ensued north of the border, and the B.C. government balked at moving forward. The controversy stretched into 1983, when an agreement was reached in which City Light dropped plans to raise the dam in exchange for the right to purchase power from the province until 2065. A formal agreement, known as the Skagit River Treaty, was signed on April 2, 1984, and Royer represented the City of Seattle at the signing ceremony.

He’d taken a lead role in representing the city in the negotiations, after which he traveled to Maui for a little r&r. Relaxing at a resort, he saw B.C. Premier William (Bill) Bennett (1932-2015) sitting two tables over. Royer walked over and introduced himself, and to his surprise, Bennett invited him to join him. Bennett was drinking a pina colada, and offered Royer one. He was no pina colada fan, but he took the premier up on it. The two men talked at length about the agreement, and even came up with a whimsical nickname for it: The Pina Colada Treaty.

Shortly after the agreement was reached in early 1983, Royer announced he was stepping down as deputy mayor. Even his critics — including The Seattle Times‘s editorial page — acknowledged his accomplishments. In writing of his work on the Skagit River Treaty, the Times observed that “Deputy Mayor Bob Royer, who is leaving City Hall, will go out on a high note. In representing the city in the final negotiations, he showed the requisite toughness and understanding” (“Ross Dam Settlement”).

Source File: https://www.historylink.org/File/20761