Columbia River Treaty Update

Columbia River Treaty Update

by Greg Haller —

U.S. and Canada move closer to formal negotiations
The modernization of the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty moved closer towards reality when the U.S. State Department finalized its negotiating position this past fall. Although the U.S. position won’t be released publicly, we believe it will be guided by the Regional Recommendation, which attempts to balance the Treaty’s existing provisions– flood risk management and hydropower production – with the needs of salmon and the river’s ecosystem. The Regional Recommendation was borne of regional consensus and despite a change in the U.S. Administration, the recommendation still represents the best interests of the United States generally and the Pacific Northwest specifically. Formal negotiations will begin when Canada finalizes its position, which will likely occur this spring.

Pacific Rivers joins Collaborative Modeling Workgroup to advocate for Salmon
The U.S. and Canada have established a collaborative modeling workgroup in order to prepare for negotiations and provide a common base of information. In a letter to Secretary Kerry, Pacific Rivers and other conservation groups in the U.S. and Canada specifically asked that a workgroup be established to analyze how the four treaty dams will balance flood risk management and hydropower operations with the needs of salmon and the river’s ecosystem. We are pleased that our request has been answered. Pacific Rivers will be representing the U.S. conservation community, aided by experts in the fields of water quality and flow management. Getting a seat at the modeling table is a big deal because it provides the conservation community the ability to advocate for better fish flows in a modernized Treaty. We will be working closely with Columbia Basin tribes, First Nations and conservation groups in Canada in this process.

Economic Analysis to show the value of improving the Columbia River Ecosystem
The economic analysis commissioned by Columbia Basin tribes, Pacific Rivers, WaterWatch of Oregon and Save our Wild Salmon is nearly complete. The purpose of the report is to demonstrate that operating the Treaty dams to benefit salmon and the river’s ecosystem will provide a greater net economic impact to the Pacific Northwest than a “business-as-usual” scenario. The report, “The Value of Natural Capital in the Columbia River Basin: A Comprehensive Analysis” is being done by Earth Economics of Tacoma Washington and will be completed in early 2017.

Greg Haller is conservation director for Pacific Rivers. Greg Haller is conservation director for Pacific Rivers.

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