Latest CBB News | Archives | About Us | Free Newsletter


FOLLOW THE CBB ON TWITTER




SUBSCRIBE TO OUR FREE WEEKLY E-MAIL NEWSLETTER 



  


Latest CBB News
NW Congressional Delegation Urges Obama To Initiate Negotiations On Columbia River Treaty
Posted on Friday, April 17, 2015 (PST)

All 26 lawmakers representing Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana urged President Obama this week to make the Columbia River Treaty a priority.

 

The Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana members of Congress, twenty-six in all, sent a letter to President Obama and urged his Administration to initiate negotiations with Canada on the Columbia River Treaty.

 

The letter, led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR), expressed concern about the slow pace of administrative review, and urged the Administration to act this year.

 

This letter followed up on a letter sent to the President last year requesting action on this important issue. The Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended through the “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024” that the Obama Administration take action on the Columbia River Treaty by mid-2014, but there are yet to be any developments.

 

Updating the Columbia River Treaty directly affects the economy, environment, and flood control needs of millions of residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana along more than 1,200 miles of the Columbia River and its tributaries.

 

“Now that the Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) has reviewed and analyzed the “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024” (Recommendation), the United States government must come to an agreement on the parameters for negotiations with Canada,” the members wrote in their letter to the Administration. “Given the 2024 deadline for certain aspects of the Treaty, we stress the importance of concluding the IPC process and urge you to initiate negotiations with Canada in 2015…We appreciate the work that has been done by the IPC to understand the Recommendation, and we are united in the belief that the Recommendation should be the basis for ensuring that cross-border management of the Columbia River better reflects the interests of the Pacific Northwest and the nation.”

 

The signatories urged the Administration to finalize a negotiating approach and initiate negotiations with Canada this year.

 

The full list of signatories is below:

 

U.S. Senate: Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Risch (R-ID)U.S. House: Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Greg Walden (R-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Raúl Labrador (R-ID)                    

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear President Obama:

 

We write to follow up on our April 15, 2014 letter regarding the future of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty (Treaty), and to express consternation with how the process has unfolded thus far. As you may recall, we asked you to make consideration of this issue a priority in our last letter, as this issue is of paramount importance to the entire Pacific Northwest. Now that the Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) has reviewed and analyzed the “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024” (Recommendation), the United States government must come to an agreement on the parameters for negotiations with Canada. Given the 2024 deadline for certain aspects of the Treaty, we stress the importance of concluding the IPC process and urge you to initiate negotiations with Canada in 2015.

 

Treaty modernization and negotiations with Canada directly affect the economy, environment, and flood control needs of communities we represent in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana along over 1,200 miles of the Columbia River and its tributaries. The Columbia River Treaty has provided benefits to communities in the Columbia River basin on both sides of the border for over fifty years, particularly as the United States and Canada worked together to manage water storage capabilities, flood control, and power generation. However, we have now reached a critical juncture at which point either the United States or Canada can initiate significant changes to the Treaty, even including termination, with ten years notice to the other country. We also understand that while certain provisions related to flood control automatically expire in 2024, the majority of the Treaty’s provisions, including the outdated formula by which the United States compensates Canada for power coordination benefits, would continue indefinitely without action.

 

We know that your Administration, including staff from the National Security Council, the Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Departments of State, Energy, the Interior, Commerce, and others have been working through the IPC to digest and analyze the details of the Recommendation since it was submitted on December 13, 2013 by the designated “U.S. Entity” – jointly the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This Recommendation outlines nine principles for a modernized Treaty, and reflects a multi-year effort to achieve regional consensus on complex river management issues among a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the Pacific Northwest. We appreciate the work that has been done by the IPC to understand the Recommendation, and we are united in the belief that the Recommendation should be the basis for ensuring that cross-border management of the Columbia River better reflects the interests of the Pacific Northwest and the nation.

 

We recognize the magnitude of the Recommendation, but the Sovereign Review Team’s work in the region yielded a consensus document that took into account the concerns of tribal nations, agricultural groups, power producers, environmental organizations, and users of the river for navigational and recreational purposes. Now that the IPC has reviewed the Recommendation, it is time for the United States government to finalize a negotiating approach and formally engage Canada.

 

We remain concerned about the pace of the IPC process, and the prioritization this matter is receiving within your Administration and the Department of State. To better understand the IPC process, and in response to questions from our constituents, we request a timeline for completing the IPC process and beginning negotiations with Canada in 2015, including mid-term deadlines and a schedule for conducting regular Congressional briefings to keep us apprised of your progress. Please also provide details on the decision making process for coming to a final resolution when IPC member positions might be in conflict or consensus cannot be reached.

 

While we understand that many agencies are involved in the current process, we are hopeful that internal debate can be brought to an expeditious conclusion so the negotiation process can begin with Canada this year. We appreciate the willingness of agencies to remain in contact with the Pacific Northwest Congressional Delegation, and ask that your Administration provide our staffs a briefing in April 2015 on your progress. We also continue to encourage your Administration to be open to input from and engagement with concerned regional stakeholders, many of whom have valuable expertise in managing the Columbia River and played key roles in developing the Recommendation.

 

The Columbia River plays a critical role in the economy and culture of each of our states, and potential management changes initiated through the Treaty could have major impacts far into the future. We thank you for your consideration of our requests and we look forward to continued engagement with you on this issue of vital importance to our constituents.

 

For background on the Columbia River Treaty see:

 

-- CBB, Sept. 19, 2014, “Columbia River Treaty Reaches Age 50 This Week; British Columbia, U.S. Considering Future Options” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432128.aspx

 

-- CBB, March 21, 2014, “British Columbia Announces Decision To Continue Columbia River Treaty While Seeking ‘Improvements’” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430094.aspx

 

-- CBB, Feb. 28, 2014 “15 Basin Tribes, Canadian First Nations Issue Report On Restoring Upper Columbia Salmon Passage” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429847.aspx

 

-- CBB, Dec. 20, 2013, “Final Recommendations For Revising Columbia River Treaty With Canada Sent To State Department” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429315.aspx

 

-- CBB, Nov. 27, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Prompts Discussion Of Restoring Salmon Passage To Canadian Headwaters” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429144.aspx

 

-- CBB, Nov. 1, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Will Impact Libby Dam Operations, Reservoir Drafting/Refill” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428897.aspx

 

-- CBB, Oct. 18, 2013, “B.C. Releases Draft Columbia River Treaty Recommendations, Wants Full Accounting Of U.S. Benefits” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428719.aspx

 

-- CBB, Sept. 27, 2013, “U.S. Releases Draft Recommendations For ‘Modernizing’ Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428444.aspx

 

-- CBB, Aug. 16, 2013, “Environmentalists Say Columbia River Treaty Needs To Expand To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Functions”’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/427918.aspx

 

-- CBB, Aug. 9, 2013, “Utilities Group Expresses Concern With Columbia River Treaty Draft Recommendations, Process, Scope” http://www.cbbulletin.com/427854.aspx

 

Bookmark and Share

 

The Columbia Basin Bulletin, Bend, Oregon. For information or comments call 541-312-8860.
Bend Oregon Website Design by Bend Oregon Website Design by Smart SolutionsProduced by Intermountain Communications  |  Site Map