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Columbia River Treaty Review

The current Columbia River Treaty is known throughout the world as one of the most successful models of transboundary water management.

About a third of the water in Columbia River comes from British Columbia, so the treaty has a huge impact on how the Great River of the West is operated for hydro, flood control, ecosystem benefits including salmon habitat, and other uses of the river. Its supporters argue it offers a framework for cooperation on energy and public safety, while demonstrating flexibility in addressing environmental interests. However, some stakeholders have urged that the treaty be modified to ensure that the river provides important “ecosystem benefits” that were not considered in the original treaty. Others are concerned about the likely additional costs.

We are rapidly approaching the time when either county can decide whether to terminate, modify, or continue the treaty, and both US and Canadian stakeholders have been deeply involved in a multi-year process called the Columbia River Treaty Review. The “US entity”, established by the President, and consisting of the BPA Administrator and the Commander of Northwestern Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers has submitted a recommendation for a “modernized Treaty framework that reflects the actual value of coordinated power operations with Canada, maintains an acceptable level of flood risk and supports a resilient and healthy ecosystem-based function throughout the Columbia River Basin.” The Province of British Columbia has also developed draft recommendations and principles.  

Since we will have explored the historical context for the existing treaty earlier in the term, we will be well positioned to understand the current issues. We will invite experts from both the US and Canada to help us understand the options and their implications.