Virtual Listening Session: Updates on the Modernization of the Columbia River Treaty Regime
Introduction: The United States and Canada recently concluded the 17th round of negotiations regarding the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime. This bilateral agreement, which has been in place since 1964, focuses on managing the Columbia River and its tributaries, primarily addressing flood risk management and hydropower generation. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the latest negotiating session, highlighting the key issues discussed and the ongoing efforts to balance ecosystem preservation, economic considerations, and flood risk management.
Negotiation Highlights: During the 17th round of negotiations, which took place from May 16-17 in Kelowna, BC, the United States and Canada engaged in productive discussions on several crucial matters. These included:
Flood Risks and Regime Changes: Both delegations deliberated on the potential flood risks that may arise following the changes in the Treaty regime scheduled for September 2024. Managing these risks effectively while ensuring the safety of communities and infrastructure remains a priority for both nations.
Hydropower Operations and Flexibility: The negotiations also focused on planning for Treaty hydropower operations and addressing Canada’s desire for greater flexibility in dam operations. Balancing the energy needs of both countries while considering environmental factors is essential for the successful modernization of the Treaty regime.
Incorporating Tribal and Indigenous Input: Recognizing the importance of tribal and indigenous perspectives, the delegations explored mechanisms for incorporating their input into Treaty operations. Collaboration with tribal communities plays a vital role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Columbia River Basin.
Strengthening Ecosystem Provisions: Efforts to strengthen the Treaty’s ecosystem provisions were discussed, emphasizing the need for collaborative studies on salmon reintroduction. By actively working together, the United States and Canada aim to restore and maintain the ecological balance of the Columbia River Basin.
After the negotiations, the delegations visited the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim hatchery near Penticton, BC, where they participated in a sockeye salmon release ceremony hosted by the Syilx Okanagan Nation. This collaborative effort symbolizes the ongoing transboundary cooperation in reintroducing and rebuilding sockeye salmon stocks in the Okanogan sub-basin. Such collaborative initiatives serve as models for achieving a balance between ecosystem preservation, economic development, and flood risk management.
Negotiating Team and Advisors:
The U.S. Department of State leads the negotiating team, which includes representatives from the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Expert-advisors from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho also contributed their valuable insights to the negotiation process.