Rep. Hastings’ Treaty Hearing: Conservationists and Fishing Community Support Inclusion of Ecosystem Function in Modernized Columbia River Treaty

For Immediate Release

Center for Environmental Law & Policy – WaterWatch of Oregon – Pacific Rivers Council – Save Our Wild Salmon – Sierra Club

December 9, 2013

Greg Haller (Pacific Rivers) 503.228.3555 (Portland)
Suzanne Skinner (CELP) 206.829-8366 (Seattle)
Pat Ford (SOS) 208.345-9067 (Boise)
John DeVoe (WaterWatch) 503.295-4039 x1 (Portland)
John Osborn (Sierra Club) 509.939-1290 (Spokane)

Rep. Hastings’ Treaty Hearing: Conservationists and Fishing Community Support Inclusion of Ecosystem Function in Modernized Columbia River Treaty

Pasco, WA – In response to Rep. Hastings’ Congressional hearing in Pasco, WA on the Columbia River Treaty, Northwest conservationists, fishing groups, and businesses encouraged the State Department to move forward with negotiations with Canada to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. Treaty decisions will have far-reaching impacts on the region’s environment, economy, and culture.

“We support modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to promote river health, including improved passage for salmon at the dams,” said Greg Haller, Pacific Rivers Council’s Conservation Director and who testified at the hearing. “The United States and Canada converted one of the greatest salmon rivers on earth to a massive hydropower generator with severe consequences for the river, salmon, and people who depend on the salmon. In this time of climate change, our generation has the opportunity to bring balance to Columbia River governance: river health and salmon, flood control, and clean, low-carbon power generation.”

Opposing the federal agencies’ recommendations are some utilities who call themselves the Treaty Power Group. “The Treaty Power Group falsely claims to represent 6.2 million ratepayers in trying to block needed Treaty reforms,” said Suzanne Skinner of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

“The utilities provide a service and collect money from the people of the Northwest, but they do not speak for us,” said Skinner. “The utilities’ narrow focus on Treaty costs fails to account for the other important concerns of Northwesterners: preparing our region for climate change, managing future flood risk, and preserving and restoring the waters and ecosystem of the Columbia River. Representative Hastings has unfortunately not invited Northwesterners to come speak at the hearing on these broad concerns that are core to the future of the Treaty.”

The Columbia River Treaty went into effect in 1964. If the current Treaty continues unchanged, then in 2024 flood-risk responsibility, now shared by Canada and the U.S., shifts to the United States. Canada would only consider providing assistance when the United States requests help. Such a change will have major impacts in the U.S. on reservoir levels, hydropower production, water supply, irrigation, and salmon. Canada favors this potential change in flood management to recover areas in British Columbia devastated by dams and wide fluctuations in reservoir levels. But in the United States, such a change could increase flood risk for Portland and Vancouver, and complicate hydropower reliability. This is a major reason to start talks with Canada now to improve the Treaty for both nations.

“Oregonians have a lot at stake in the outcome of this process, as do all the people of the Pacific Northwest,” said John DeVoe, Executive Director of WaterWatch. “A key question is whether the United States will seek measures essential to maintaining the kind of living and naturally abundant river ecosystem cherished by so many of us. There is broad regional support for including ecosystem function as a third and co-equal purpose of the Treaty, alongside flood-risk management and hydropower. Oregonians want this in a modernized Treaty. We agree with many in the region, including the City of Portland that these elements must be included, and that the necessary discussions to harmonize river health and flood control should start promptly.”

The next step for the United States in modernizing the Columbia River Treaty is for BPA and Army Corps of Engineers (together called the “U.S. Entity”) to deliver its Regional Recommendations to the State Department, scheduled for December 9.


Testimony of Greg Haller, Oversight Field Hearing, Dec 9, 2013

Oversight Field Hearing on “The Future of the US-Canada Columbia River Treaty – Building on 60 years of Coordinated Power Generation and Flood Control”

Naiads for updates on Treaty and other water issues

Include salmon, climate provisions in river treaty, Spokesman-Review Op-Ed, 10-28-2013