Conservationists, Fishing Interests Respond to U.S. Treaty Recommendation for Columbia River

Center for Environmental Law & Policy * WaterWatch of Oregon * Pacific Rivers Council   Save Our Wild Salmon * Sierra Club * Columbia Institute for Water Policy

For Immediate Release

Conservationists, Fishing Interests Respond to U.S. Treaty Recommendation for Columbia River

December 13, 2013

Pat Ford (SOS) 208.345-9067 (Boise)
Rachael Paschal Osborn (Columbia Institute for Water Policy) 509.939-1290 (Spokane)
Greg Haller (Pacific Rivers) 503.228.3555 (Portland)
Suzanne Skinner (CELP) 206.829-8366 (Seattle)
John DeVoe (WaterWatch of Oregon) 503.295-4039 x1 (Portland)

Spokane, WA – Today Northwest conservation groups and the fishing community called on the U.S. State Department to move forward with modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. Their request comes in response to the final recommendation issued today by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to expand the purposes of the Treaty to include ecosystem function involving passage for salmon at the dams. Treaty decisions will have far-reaching impacts on the region’s environment, economy, and culture.

“There is solid, broad-based support among Northwest states, Tribes, businesses and citizens to promptly begin formal talks with Canada to modernize the half-century-old Columbia River Treaty for tomorrow’s Northwest,” said Pat Ford of Save Our Wild Salmon. “Conservationists and fishermen urge Secretary of State Kerry to take the next needed step. After assessing the regional recommendation, we urge him in turn to recommend to the White House that talks with our Canadian counterparts begin in 2014. At the same time, federal agencies, communities and people have work to do on our side of the border. We need to initiate a thorough public review of how to modernize flood risk management in the Columbia Basin, and we should add a government or agency with natural resource and climate change expertise to the federal team that implements the Columbia River Treaty. Our groups hope Northwest leaders and communities will help the region take these steps.”

The federal agencies have recommended that the State Department include restoring the ecosystem as a primary driver of an updated treaty, co-equal to hydropower and flood control, a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management. All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation. Opposing the federal agencies’ recommendations is the utility caucus, called the Treaty Power Group, which wants to offload costs relating to the Treaty to decrease electricity rates – already some of the lowest rates in the United States.

“We are excited to see the U.S. agencies recommend discussion of fish passage on the Columbia mainstem as part of a modernized Treaty,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn of the Columbia Institute for Water Policy. “This will benefit citizens, recreation and commercial fishers, Tribes and First Nations to restore salmon to the Upper Columbia.”

The Columbia River Treaty went into effect in 1964. In 2024 flood-risk responsibility, now shared by Canada and the U.S., shifts to the United States. Canada would only provide assistance when the U.S. requests help. Such a change will have major impacts in the U.S. on reservoir levels, hydropower production, water supply, irrigation, and salmon. As written, the recommendation includes a public process to explore innovative ways to manage river flows and flood risk. This is a major reason to start talks with Canada now to improve the Treaty for both nations.

Links –
Regional Recommendation and Cover Letter, U.S. Entity