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U.S. State Department Picks New Columbia River Treaty Negotiator
Posted on Friday, October 27, 2017 (PST)

The U.S. State Department last week announced that Jill Smail will be the new Columbia River Treaty negotiator for the department, replacing Brian Doherty.


“I am delighted to announce the arrival of our new Columbia River Treaty negotiator Jill Smail, replacing CRT negotiator Brian Doherty,” said Cindy Kierscht, the state department’s Director, Office of Canadian Affairs, in an e-mail last week to parties involved in the CRT.


Smail “comes to us from the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs where she previously served as the Senior Water advisor.  She has extensive experience in negotiating transboundary water issues in the Middle East and has represented the U.S. Government on water issues in various bilateral and multilateral fora. We are delighted to have her to join our team in the Office of Canadian Affairs to work on this important issue.


“We expect she will first conduct internal consultations, but will soon be reaching out to all relevant stakeholders in Washington, DC and in the region to hear your interests and concerns.   We also hope to get Jill out to the region to coincide with the Collaborative Modeling Working Group that we understand will be held in early November. 


“We look forward to working with you all closely in the weeks ahead as we work to modernize the CRT treaty,” Kierscht said.


Smail joined the Office of Canadian Affairs as the Columbia River Treaty Negotiator this month. From 2009-September 2017, she served as the Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health, with a focus on Middle East water negotiations and programs.  She worked with Middle East negotiating teams on water issues related to a final status agreement and managed programs to facilitate greater cooperation among the parties in watershed management, research, desalination, infrastructure development, and agriculture. 


Smail’s previous assignments at the U.S. Department of State include serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan and negotiating small arms and light weapons destruction projects in post-conflict regions in Southeast Europe, Africa, and Asia.  She joined the U.S. Department of State in 2001.


Smail is a native of Groesbeck, Texas.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a Master of Science in Government and Public Service from Texas A&M University.  She also earned a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University.


The CRT, a trans-boundary water management agreement, was signed in 1961 and ratified in 1964.


The treaty has no specified expiration date. Either Canada or the United States can unilaterally terminate the Columbia River Treaty any time after Sept. 16, 2024, provided written notice is filed at least 10 years in advance.


This suggests a “notice date” of Sept 16, 2014, but notice could have been done earlier and can be done later.


Both British Columbia and the United States are considering options to determine whether or not to give notice. Regardless, Assured Annual Flood Control expires automatically in 2024 and converts in 2024 to a Called Upon operation of Canadian storage space as may be needed by the United States for flood risk management


The treaty optimizes flood management and power generation, requiring coordinated operations of reservoirs and water flows for the Columbia River and Kootenay River on both sides of the border.


As a direct result of the treaty, four storage dams were built: Mica, Arrow and Duncan dams in British Columbia, Canada; and Libby Dam in Montana. The Columbia’s headwaters are in British Columbia. The river flows south into Washington, then west along the Oregon-Washington border to the Pacific. Tributaries from British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming feed the Columbia-Snake river system.


These four projects more than doubled the storage capacity of the Columbia River system, increased control of the river flow, thereby decreasing the risk of major flooding events downstream, and provided opportunities for releasing water at times needed for power generation and other downstream benefits such as fisheries and water supply.


For more information on the Columbia River Treaty go to the Columbia River Treaty 2014/2024 website managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration.


To follow this process since 2013, see these stories:


-- CBB, June 24, 2016, “Cantwell, Canadian Ambassador Meet To Discuss Columbia River Treaty Ahead Of North American Summit”


-- CBB, March 18, 2016, “Cantwell Secures Commitment From Canadian Prime Minister To Move Forward With Columbia River Treaty”


-- CBB, March 11, 2016, “Cantwell Urges Canadian Prime Minister To Start Talks On Columbia River Treaty; Murray Quizzes Moniz”


-- CBB, Feb. 12, 2016, “Cross-Border Coalition Urges Collaboration In Modernizing U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty”


-- CBB, June 12, 2015, “State Department: Columbia River Treaty Negotiating Position To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Function,”


-- CBB, April 17, 2015, “NW Congressional Delegation Urges Obama To Initiate Negotiations On Columbia River Treaty,”


-- CBB, Sept. 19, 2014, “Columbia River Treaty Reaches Age 50 This Week; British Columbia, U.S. Considering Future Options”


-- CBB, March 21, 2014, “British Columbia Announces Decision To Continue Columbia River Treaty While Seeking ‘Improvements,’”


-- CBB, Feb. 28, 2014 “15 Basin Tribes, Canadian First Nations Issue Report On Restoring Upper Columbia Salmon Passage,”


-- CBB, Dec. 20, 2013, “Final Recommendations For Revising Columbia River Treaty With Canada Sent To State Department,”


-- CBB, Nov. 27, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Prompts Discussion Of Restoring Salmon Passage To Canadian Headwaters”


-- CBB, Nov. 1, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Will Impact Libby Dam Operations, Reservoir Drafting/Refill,”


-- CBB, Oct. 18, 2013, “B.C. Releases Draft Columbia River Treaty Recommendations, Wants Full Accounting Of U.S. Benefits,”


-- CBB, Sept. 27, 2013, “U.S. Releases Draft Recommendations For ‘Modernizing’ Columbia River Treaty”


-- CBB, Aug. 16, 2013, “Environmentalists Say Columbia River Treaty Needs To Expand To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Functions,”’


-- CBB, Aug. 9, 2013, “Utilities Group Expresses Concern With Columbia River Treaty Draft Recommendations, Process, Scope,”

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