Water: law/policy/politics/ethics/art/science

Columbia River Treaty: U.S. Seeks Comments on Draft Recommendations

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The two U.S. federal agencies tasked with implementing the Columbia River Treaty – Bonneville Power Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers – have also been directed to review the Treaty and make recommendations to the U.S. Department of State regarding potential re-negotiation terms.

The two agencies, which are collectively known as the U.S. Entity, have published a Cover Letter and Working Draft Recommendations and are asking for public comment by August 16.   Based on this first round of comments, a second draft will be published for public review in September.  The U.S. Entity’s goal is to deliver a set of final recommendation to the State Department in December 2013.

While the U.S. Entity has made great strides, the draft recommendations are not strong enough.   The Columbia Institute for Water Policy sent a letter this week explaining the shortcomings.  The U.S. Entity needs to hear the following:

(1) Ecosystem Function.  The United States must unequivocally pursue a new, third, purpose in the next version of the Columbia River Treaty:   Ecosystem Function.   This purpose must be co-equal to the existing purposes of power generation and flood control.   This purpose must embrace restoration of the Columbia River and not simply adopt the status quo of Endangered Species Act compliance.

(2) Fish Passage.  The United States must negotiate with Canada to create a plan to return salmon to the British Columbia portion of the basin.  In other words, fish passage at Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams needs to be made a reality.  As a practical matter, Canada will likely be more willing to revisit benefits sharing if it actually gets a benefit.

(3) Green Power.  The old Treaty sends half of the extra power that is generated in the U.S. as a result of the Canadian dams back to British Columbia and its power corporation, B.C. Hydro.  In the future, the calculation of power benefits must include consideration of conservation and renewable energy sources – and thus promote carbon-free energy production.   The existing “Hydropower” purpose of the Treaty must be expanded to “Green Power.”  This is full consistent with the NW Power Council’s Sixth Power Plan, which concluded the Pacific NW can meet the next 20 years’ demand for electricity through conservation and renewable sources.

(4) Updated Flood Management.  The Corps of Engineers manages the Columbia River to reduce flood risk – that’s good.  But the current flood protocols are extremely conservation, and limit creative solutions that would help improve ecosystem function.   The Corps needs to reconsider its flood control operations for the Columbia River.

See the Columbia Institute’s letter for more comments regarding the Working Draft Recommendations.

You can send in your comments to

Author: naiads

Opinionated (retired) public interest water lawyer

One thought on “Columbia River Treaty: U.S. Seeks Comments on Draft Recommendations

  1. Pingback: CRT: Conservation Groups Weighing In on U.S. Treaty Guidance | Naiads

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