fifth round of Columbia River Treaty negotiations was recently concluded by the
United States and Canada in Washington, D.C., this time focusing on American
priorities for managing water in the basin.
Feb. 27-28 meeting centered on the main topics that were identified when
negotiations got underway in May of 2018: continuing careful flood risk
management through coordinated operations of hydroelectric dams on both sides
of the border; maintaining a reliable and economical power supply; and managing
the Columbia River system in a way that improves ecosystem benefits.
U.S. State Department has been tight-lipped about the negotiations, but a
British Columbia Cabinet minister charged with monitoring the negotiations
offered some insight this week to the Canadian Press.
Katrine Conroy says talks have been “frank,” and that all matters are on the
table, including reducing Canada’s “entitlement” of electricity generated in
the U.S. in exchange for water storage, and cutting downstream benefits to the
said talks have advanced on the topics of flood risk management and hydropower
know from our perspective, the operations on this side are incredibly
important, especially the lake levels in both east and west Kootenay. It’s
always an issue for people on this side of the basin,” she said.
explained that requests from the U.S. for increased flows would translate to
fluctuating reservoir levels in B.C., which draws complaints. Extreme weather
in recent years has focused attention on flood-risk management.
of climate change and the fluctuating levels of our rivers in the last few
years and some of the floods that have come about, we do need the flood control
and we do need that flood control downstream,” she said.
55-year-old treaty, set to expire by 2024, is touted by both negotiating teams
as a model for transboundary relations. Both sides also believe the treaty is
ripe for modernization to account for demographic, land use, and environmental
changes that have occurred since the treaty took effect in 1964.
risk management and economically efficient hydropower were the original
concerns of the treaty. The new element is ecosystem functions, largely because
of a long and steady decline in salmon populations due to hydropower dams. All
three elements are connected in complex and multi-layered ways.
on both sides have said they are striving for flexibility – the ability to
carry out adaptive management strategies in the midst of climate change,
changing energy markets and future development throughout the region.
the negotiating sessions are not open to the public or media, the U.S.
negotiating team has and will continue to hold town hall meetings to get public
input on the treaty. The last one was Sept. 6 in Portland and the next one is
schedule for March 20 in Kalispell, Mont. The events have been co-hosted by the
Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
negotiators have said they are largely focused on a “Regional Recommendation”
that came out in 2013 after a lengthy public process that involved reviewing
benefits and harms caused by the treaty. The process involved Columbia Basin
states, tribes and hundreds of stakeholders. With the conclusion of the
Regional Recommendation process, the U.S. government conducted a review
concerning the post-2024 future of the Treaty.
more about the 2013 U.S. Regional Recommendation at: https://www.bpa.gov/Projects/Initiatives/crt/CRT-Regional-Recommendation-eFINAL.pdf
more on the treaty and upcoming town hall meetings, visit: https://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/ca/topics/c78892.htm
CBB, Oct. 26, 2018, “Lead Diplomat For U.S. Sizes Up Ongoing Columbia River
Treaty Negotiations,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441718.aspx
CBB, Sept. 14, 2018, “Lead U.S. Negotiators For New Columbia River Treaty Hold
Portland Town Hall” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441485.aspx
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 Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440608.aspx
CBB, Dec. 8, 2017, “U.S. - Canada Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Expected
To Begin In Early 2018” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439924.aspx