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Regional Players Divided On How To Renegotiate Columbia River Treaty

Northwest News Network, Tom Banse

Two federal agencies are recommending that a 50-year-old treaty between the U.S. and Canada be renegotiated to give Northwest electricity ratepayers and salmon a better deal.

The Columbia River Treaty coordinates hydropower operations and flood control on the 1000 mile shared river. Draft negotiating principles were released Friday.

The Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers in Portland are trying to find consensus on what the Northwest wants from an updated Columbia River Treaty. The goal is to send recommendations to the U.S. State Department by mid-December.

Northwest tribes and environmentalists are cheering the inclusion of conservation goals alongside coordinated power production and flood control. But electric utilities are balking at bulking up the treaty.

“There are continuing concerns about how this treaty process is going to impact costs to citizens in the region,” says Scott Corwin, who directs the Public Power Council.

For example, making hydropower operations more fish-friendly could sacrifice power production. Another controversial idea: reintroduce salmon above Grand Coulee Dam where they haven’t run for 70 years.

The Columbia River Treaty has no expiration date, but either country can pull out or suggest changes with 10 years’ notice starting next year.

On the Web:

Columbia River Treaty review - BPA/USACE 

U.S., Canada Ponder Terms For Shared Columbia River (Sept. 29, 2011) - Northwest News Network 


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