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Cantwell Secures Commitment From Canadian Prime Minister To Move Forward With Columbia River Treaty
Posted on Friday, March 18, 2016 (PST)

At last week’s State Department lunch with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) says she received commitments from the Prime Minister and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to move forward with talks on modernization of the Columbia River Treaty.

 

Specifically, Trudeau confirmed the need for US-Canadian talks and committed to focusing on appointing a negotiating team. Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion also committed to moving talks forward.

 

The United States appointed Brian Doherty as the U.S. Chief Negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty in 2015.

 

“Prime Minister Trudeau, Foreign Minister Dion, and I had a positive discussion today. The Canadian leaders agreed to move forward and appoint a chief negotiator to begin treaty talks. Modernizing this treaty would benefit Americans and Canadians along the Columbia River across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia,” said Cantwell.

 

The commitment comes after Cantwell sent a letter urging the Prime Minister to prioritize U.S.-Canadian negations of the Columbia River Treaty to address current climate challenges.

 

Ratified in 1964, new modernized treaty, said Cantwell, “will also allow the US and Canada work on critical clean energy solutions such as smart grid with intermittent power, grid-scale storage and clean infrastructure solutions.”

 

Cantwell supports the U.S. negotiating position based on the Regional Recommendation to modernize the Treaty, balancing ecosystem function including salmon recovery, flood control and hydropower generation.

 

The commitment is an important step in beginning joint US-Canadian talks to modernize the treaty, said Cantwell.

 

The Columbia River Treaty has no specific end date, and most of its provisions would continue indefinitely without action by the United States or Canada. However, the Treaty states either the United States or Canada can terminate most of its provisions beginning September 2024, with a minimum 10 years written notice.

 

Cantwell has been a leader in pressing for the modernization of the treaty. Last year, she sent a letter to President Obama with 25 other members of the Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation, urging the Administration to move forward with a strategy for addressing the treaty.

 

The Revelstoke Times Review reported that a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the news, writing in an e-mail that "progress towards establishing a negotiating team was made" during Trudeau's visit to Washington last week.

 

"The Government of Canada has been and will continue working closely with the Government of British Columbia to prepare for discussions with the United States on the future of the Treaty," wrote Joseph Pickerill.

 

The Times-Review reported that discussions “so far have surrounded the compensation B.C. should receive for providing flood control and adding environmental considerations to the treaty. First Nations on both sides of the border are pushing to restore the Columbia River salmon run as part of the treaty.

 

“So far, Ottawa has largely left discussions in the hands of the B.C. government. Bill Bennett, the MLA for Kootenay East and the Minister of Energy & Mines, said they are still waiting to hear Ottawa's position on the treaty, as well as that of the American government, who so far have not indicated whether or not they want to re-negotiate.”

 

Bennett, according to the Times-Review, said he expects Ottawa to take the lead on negotiations, "with B.C. right at their elbow providing information and perspective."

 

Also see:

 

-- CBB, March 11, 2016, “Cantwell Urges Canadian Prime Minister To Start Talks On Columbia River Treaty; Murray Quizzes Moniz” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436203.aspx

 

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