The U.S. Entity on Friday sent a final regional recommendation concerning the future of the Columbia River Treaty to the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State will use the final recommendation to begin a federal policy review process to determine whether to proceed with a Treaty modernization effort with Canada.
“After three years of collaboration with a wide variety of interests in the region, we believe we are recommending a win-win approach to the future of the Columbia River Treaty that will be broadly supported by the people of the Pacific Northwest,” said Elliot Mainzer, acting administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration and chair of the U.S. Entity.
The U.S. Entity, consisting of the BPA administrator and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division engineer, is charged with formulating and carrying out the operating arrangements necessary to implement the Columbia River Treaty.
The U.S. Entity Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty After 2024 was developed by the U.S. Entity in collaboration and consultation with the region’s four states, federally recognized tribes and a variety of stakeholders through an extensive, multiyear process known as the Columbia River Treaty Review.
“We appreciate the extensive involvement and input of the region in developing a recommendation that reflects the region’s many important interests for consideration by the State Department and the Administration,” said Brigadier General John Kem, Commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division and U.S. Entity member.
The final recommendation submits that the Pacific Northwest and the nation would benefit from modernization of the Treaty post-2024. It begins by identifying regional goals for the future of the Treaty post-2024. It includes general principles underlying this recommendation, followed by more specific recommendations related to several Treaty elements. It also identifies matters related to possible post-2024 Treaty implementation for consideration through domestic processes.
The final recommendation supports a modernized Treaty that would simultaneously:
• better address the region’s interest in a reliable and economically sustainable hydropower system and reflect a more reasonable assessment of the value of coordinated power operations with Canada;
• continue to provide a similar level of flood risk management to protect public safety and the region’s economy;
• include ecosystem-based function as one of the primary purposes of the Treaty; and
• create flexibility within the Treaty to respond to climate change, changing water supply needs and other potential future changes in system operations while continuing to meet authorized purposes such as navigation and irrigation.
• Under the original Treaty, either Canada or the United States may unilaterally terminate most provisions of the Treaty as early as September 2024, with a minimum of 10 years’ notice; hence the focus on 2014 and 2024.
Now that the final recommendation has been delivered to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. government will formally take up the question of the Columbia River Treaty. That process will be a federal, interagency review under the general direction of the National Security Council on behalf of the President. The Department of State has been designated as the agency to coordinate and oversee this process on behalf of the National Security Council.
To read the final recommendation, and for more information on the Columbia River Treaty Review, go to the Columbia River Treaty website.