It appears negotiations between the United
States and Canada on the Columbia River Treaty will begin soon.
A media note this week from the U.S. State
Department says the United States and Canada “will begin negotiations to
modernize the landmark Columbia River Treaty regime in early 2018. Certain
provisions of the Treaty—a model of transboundary natural resource cooperation
since 1964—are set to expire in 2024.
“The Columbia River’s drainage basin is
roughly the size of France and includes parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The Treaty’s flood risk and
hydropower operations provide substantial benefits to millions of people on
both sides of the border. The Treaty has also facilitated additional benefits
such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use,
industrial use, navigation, and recreation,” said the note https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276354.htm
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.
In late October, the State Department announced
that Jill Smail will be the new Columbia River Treaty negotiator for the
department, replacing Brian Doherty.
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
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
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
For more information on the Columbia River
Treaty go to the Columbia River Treaty 2014/2024 website https://www.crt2014-2024review.gov/Default.aspx managed
by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration.
-- CBB, October 27, 2017, “U.S. State
Department Picks New Columbia River Treaty Negotiator,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439784.aspx