Negotiations to renew the 1964 Columbia River
Treaty with Canada are proceeding smoothly, following most recent talks in
Portland Oct. 17-18, says the lead negotiator for the U.S. State Department.
“While I can’t get into specifics of the
ongoing negotiations I can say there were conversations that were productive
and that we’re working well together,” said Jill Smail, the State Department
veteran who was tapped to lead a U.S. negotiating team last fall. The team
includes representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville
Power Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and
the Department of Interior.
The State Department recently issued a
pod-cast interview with Smail, who sized up the overall negotiation picture,
reiterating the main points of the United States for modernizing a Columbia
River Treaty “regime.” To listen to her interview and access the readout, go to
“We think the treaty has been tremendously
successful,” Smail said. “After 50 years, we see areas that can be improved.”
One issue, Smail pointed out, is that after
2024 the flood risk management terms between the U.S. and Canada will change.
“By modernizing the Columbia River Treaty
regime, we seek continued careful management of flood risk. We also want to
ensure reliable and economical power supply to ensure ecosystem benefits.”
Those have been the consistent positions of
the United States since the first round of negotiations were held in
Washington, D.C. in May. The next round of negotiations will take place
December 12-13, in Vancouver, Canada.
Smail explained the “regime” concept as being
not only the treaty, but the various directives and policies that are used to
implement the treaty, with transboundary cooperation.
Smail addressed one touchy topic, persistent
complaints from Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations about being
excluded from the formal negotiation teams. While no tribal members are part of
the U.S. negotiating team, Smail contends the federal government has been
proactively soliciting input from the tribes.
She said a decision was made that “the best
way to balance the U.S objectives to conclude a successful agreement with
Canada in a timely manner is to limit the negotiating team to a small team of
“We value the expertise, experience and input
of the tribes,” Smail added. “The Department of State has maintained regular
contact and communication with them on developments related to modernization of
the Columbia River Treaty regime,” ever since a regional recommendation was
submitted in 2013. The regional recommendations were developed through public
comment and input from state, local and federal agencies.
“We’re working with them,” Smail said,
referring to Pacific Northwest tribes.
As negotiations continue (Dec. 12-13), the
U.S. negotiating team will continue to hold regular Town Halls throughout the
Columbia River Basin to hear from the U.S. public on the modernization of the
Columbia River Treaty regime. The last Town Hall took place September 6 in
Portland, Ore., and the next one is planned for early 2019.
A U.S. “Entity,” made up of private, tribal,
state and local representatives, forwarded its recommendation concerning the
future of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada to the U.S. Department of State
on December 13, 2013. Known as the “Regional Recommendation,” the U.S. Entity
developed this recommendation in collaboration and consultation with the region
through an extensive, multi-year Columbia River Treaty Review. The constructive
involvement of the region’s states, federally recognized tribes, and hundreds
of stakeholders helped the U.S. Entity reach this important milestone. With the
conclusion of the Regional Recommendation process, the U.S. government
conducted a review concerning the post-2024 future of the Treaty.
Read more about the U.S. Regional
Recommendation of 2013 at: https://www.bpa.gov/Projects/Initiatives/crt/CRT-Regional-Recommendation-eFINAL.pdf
-- CBB, Sept. 14, 2018, “Lead U.S. Negotiators
For New Columbia River Treaty Hold Portland Town Hall” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441485.aspx
--CBB, July 27, 2018, “Columbia River Treaty
Negotiators Hear Views In Spokane Forum From Both Sides Of Border,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441189.aspx
-- CBB, April 27, 2018, “State Department
Holds Town Hall On Negotiations With Canada For Modernized Columbia River
-- CBB, Dec. 8, 2017, “U.S. - Canada Columbia
River Treaty Negotiations Expected To Begin In Early 2018” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439924.aspx