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Talking Columbia River Treaty

With the future of the Columbia River Treaty up for negotiations, residents across the Northwest are learning how potential changes could impact water flows and uses in the basin.

In particular, the treaty’s ultimate fate might have a bearing on water supply for Eastern Oregon irrigators, as well as continued flood control and power generation throughout the region.

About 20 people attended a public open house Monday at the Port of Morrow to discuss the Columbia River Treaty 2014-2024 Review, part of a series of studies as the United States and Canada consider alternatives in shaping the agreement beyond 2024.

The Columbia River Treaty, implemented in 1964, contains a series of provisions regulating water flow from reservoirs in Canada into the United States. That predictability allows for flood control, new hydropower development and ecosystem management south into the United States.

And, while the treaty itself has no specific expiration date, either country can decide to terminate most provisions by Sept. 16, 2024, with a minimum of 10 years advance notice.

In anticipation of the U.S. State Department’s negotiations with the Canadian government, the U.S. entity — led by Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwestern Division Engineer — are studying the overall effects of change in the basin and make its final recommendation.

BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are hosting a series of 16 meetings in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to gauge local issues in crafting the recommendation by December.

Monday’s meeting in Boardman saw residents ask questions about water availability for irrigators, and whether any alternatives would damage recreation on the Columbia River.

Rick Pendergrass, manager of power and operations planning with BPA, said water levels will remain stable at local reservoirs for recreation. As for irrigation, it is possible to negotiate more water from Canadian reservoirs over the summer, but they have not conducted an economic analysis.

“It’s going to be on the table, there’s no doubt about it,” Pendergrass said.

The agencies are asking that all public comments are submitted by the end of May. Comments can be emailed to, faxed to 503-230-4563 or mailed to BPA at Box 3621 in Portland.

Contact George Plaven at or 541-564-4547.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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