Columbia River Treaty


Save Our wild Salmon is helping coordinate Northwest conservation, fishing and business groups to modernize the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty of 1964 for today’s – and tomorrow’s – Northwest.  The Columbia is changing on both sides of the border – hotter water, thinner snowpacks, changing flows.  Salmon and people, waters and economies, are suffering the effects, with much worse to come.  Healthy ecosystem function should join power production and flood management as a core Treaty purpose.  In the Northwest, ecosystem function is economic function.


For Immediate Release: The Columbia River Basin Holds Immense Natural Capital Value

CRBV.Report.Cover1New study shows Columbia River Basin’s natural capital worth $198 billion annually

July 6, 2017

D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes, 509.209.2412,
Sara Thompson, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, 503. 238.3567,
Greg Haller, Pacific Rivers, 503.228.3555 ext. 205,
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, 206-300-1003,
David Batker, Earth Economics, 253.678.1563,

Spokane, WA (July, 6th, 2017)—A new report, released today, shows that the Columbia River Basin’s natural capital provides $198 billion in value annually, in food, water, flood risk reduction, recreation, habitat, aesthetic and other benefits. At 258,000 square miles, the Columbia River Basin is the foundation for communities, fish and wildlife and economic activity from the headwaters in British Columbia, Wyoming and Nevada, through Idaho, Washington and Oregon and through coastal fisheries up to Southeast Alaska. Fifteen Columbia Basin Tribes and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contributed to and supported the development of this report.

The report also shows that modernizing dam management and increasing water flows in below average water years would enhance the basin’s natural capital value enhancing salmon runs.  A modest 10% increase in ecosystem-based function would add $19 billion per year to the basin’s value. The report’s release comes at a critical time for the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, which is due for an update in 2024.

"This report comes at a time when the region is poised to take a historic step to modernize the Columbia River Treaty," stated Jaime A. Pinkham, Executive Director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "There is vast potential for natural capital remaining in the Columbia River system. These findings tell negotiators that incorporating ecosystem based function into the Treaty will broaden and expand the economic benefits that can co-exist with flood control and energy production. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”


News Release – June 22, 2017
Northwest, British Columbia need to stand together to modernize the Columbia River Treaty

Conservation and faith groups respond to 7 NW Members of Congress: 
Yes - negotiations need to move forward – but include restoring the Columbia’s health, avoid threatening Canada with treaty termination.  

Greg Haller (Pacific Rivers Council) 503.228.3555
Joseph Bogaard  (Save Our wild Salmon Coalition)  206.300-1003
The Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner (Earth Ministry)  509.270-6995  
John Osborn MD (Ethics & Treaty Project) 509.939-1290 

Portland –  Responding to a letter to President Trump signed by seven Members of Congress (MOCs) from the Northwest, today Northwest conservation and faith groups encouraged the United States to work for restoring the health of the Columbia and avoid threatening Canada with termination of the Columbia River Treaty. The United States currently has the authority to begin negotiations but the federal government in Canada has not finalized its position.  The provincial elections in British Columbia and  efforts to install Provincial leadership in the wake of the tight vote last month have also contributed to the delay in finalizing the Canadian federal government’s position.


Clearing Up: Northwest Delegation Sends Another Letter Urging U.S. CRT Action

August 12, 2016

Frustrated that the State Department has yet to take action on the Columbia River Treaty, 22 members of the Northwest congressional delegation on Aug. 11 sent another letter—the third—to Secretary of State John Kerry urging action. “We write to express concern about the U.S. Department of State’s slow progress toward modernizing” the treaty, stated the letter, which was coordinated through the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

It’s been more than two-and-half-years since BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after a multiyear collaboration with the Sovereign Review Team, finalized the nine principles in the Northwest’s Regional Recommendation on the future of the treaty. Since then, the delegation has sent two letters—one in April 2014 and another in April 2015—unsuccessfully asking the administration to open negotiations with Canada. Regional officials were encouraged in fall 2015 when State appointed Brian Doherty, a senior foreign service officer, as chief negotiator for modernization of the treaty. Doherty made a number of initial contacts with regional officials late last year and reportedly made a good impression on them.

Doherty also toured treaty-related sites, and has continued to organize nearly monthly technical meetings with tribes, power groups and even some Canadians. However, he has held no public meetings, and State has repeatedly declined formal requests by Clearing Up to interview Doherty.

Northwest officials worry that the longer it takes to begin negotiations, the longer the region will continue with coordinated river operations of limited value and an obligation to return to Canada a share of power generated in the U.S., which under treaty terms comes to about 450 aMW of energy and 1,300 MW of capacity, while the actual current value is estimated by BPA to be 90 aMW and zero MW of capacity.


CBB: Cantwell, Canadian Ambassador Meet To Discuss Columbia River Treaty Ahead Of North American Summit

maria.cantwellFriday, June 24, 2016

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) met with Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton ahead of the North American Leaders Summit to discuss the progress being made toward a new Columbia River Treaty.

In March, Cantwell secured a commitment from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that America’s northern neighbor was willing to move forward to modernize the treaty.

“Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to balance flood control, ecosystem protection, and hydropower generation can be a win – win for both Canada and the United States” said Cantwell. “I am happy to report that Ambassador MacNaughton agreed that there are several areas for our countries to work together.”

Updating the treaty, which has not been revised since it was ratified in 1964, will allow the US and Canada, said Cantwell in a press release, to “work on critical clean energy solutions such as smart grid with intermittent power, grid-scale storage and clean infrastructure solutions.”

Cantwell said she supports the U.S. negotiating position based on the “Regional Recommendation” to modernize the treaty, balancing ecosystem function including salmon recovery, flood control and hydropower generation.


Seattle Times Editorial: Columbia River Treaty works, but needs thoughtful updating

Time for the U.S. and Canada to move ahead on talks about modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. Get started on negotiations.

columbia.r-largeMay 19, 2016

By Seattle Times editorial board

CANADIAN Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is new to the job with a busy agenda. High on his list should be appointment of a chief negotiator to formally launch talks on the Columbia River Treaty.

Like much of the treaty signed in September 1964, that imperative begs definition. Separate regional U.S. and Canadian teams have spent years drafting recommendations to update an agreement grounded in hydropower generation and flood-risk management.

The Canadian review team was composed and shaped by British Columbia’s provincial interests, apart from the federal government in Ottawa.

The U.S. recommendations were drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration in a review process that included four states, 11 federal agencies and 15 Native American tribes and other stakeholders.

In 2015, the U.S. State Department appointed Brian Doherty as chief U.S. negotiator for the trans-border talks. Its counterpart, Global Affairs Canada, has yet to name a negotiator.

Time is slipping by. The treaty has no formal expiration date. But after 2024, either side can cancel the agreement with 10 years’ notice. That made September 2014 significant.

What does go away in 2024 is a formal, predictable flood-risk management regime that has protected the U.S. for half a century.

Modernizing the treaty means updating language on flood-risk mitigation and hydropower generation, and adding ecosystem-based functions.”


Columbia Basin Bulletin: Cross-Border Coalition Urges Collaboration In Modernizing U.S.-Canada
Columbia River Treaty

Columbia River GorgeFriday, February 12, 2016

A cross-border coalition from a broad group of 51 organization and associations are urging the U.S. and Canadian governments to modernize the 52-year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty in order to protect the environmental values of the river.

The groups sent a letter this week to policymakers from the United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia urging them to develop and share critical information as an essential step in protecting and restoring the Columbia River and its watershed as they negotiate the treaty.

“As citizen-based coalitions in Canada and the United States, we are writing on behalf of organizations in both countries that collectively represent millions of people,” the letter says.

The letter was signed by Martin Carver of Nelson, British Columbia, Principal, Aqua Environmental Assoc. and by Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director of Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition in the U.S.

“We support modernizing the 1964 U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty, to improve the health of basin ecosystems and ensure that the river and its people are more resilient to the increasing effects of climate change,” the letter continues.

Other signers include leaders from conservation, commercial and recreational fishing, and faith communities. The letter is addressed to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion; United States Secretary of State John Kerry; and British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark.

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here.

“Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to meet the challenges of the 21st Century must focus on protecting and restoring the health of this important river and its watershed,” Carver said.


More Articles...

  1. Feb 10, 2016 - For Immediate Release: Conservation, fishing and faith communities call for U.S and Canadian government collaboration as essential to modernize the Columbia River Treaty
  2. Aug 15, 2015 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Drought put new facet on U.S.-Canada river treaty
  3. Aug 15, 2015 - The Spokesman-Review: B.C. residents push for more-stable reservoir levels as Columbia River Treaty is renegotiated
  4. Jun 23, 2015 - Spokesman-Review guest opinion: Pope's letter on environment a call for change
  5. Jun 09, 2015 - For Immediate Release: Columbia River Treaty: State Department to include Ecosystem Function in negotiating position
  6. Jun 05, 2015 - Wenatchee World: Feds - Columbia River Treaty's future is a 'priority'
  7. Apr 15, 2015 - AP: NW delegation demands start of Columbia River treaty talks
  8. Jan 12, 2015 - High Country News: Salmon ground is holy ground
  9. Nov 19, 2014 - Views from North of the Border: Treaty must consider climate change
  10. Oct 09, 2014 - Al Jazeera America: Salmon people pray for sacred fish to return to historic home
  11. Oct 08, 2014 - Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty: A report from our nation's capitol (Sept 2014)
  12. Oct 07, 2014 - HCN: Watershed moment: The U.S. and Canada prepare to renegotiate the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty.
  13. Oct 04, 2014 - CBB: Religious, Tribal Leaders Send To President, Prime Minister Declaration On Columbia River Treaty
  14. Aug 08, 2014 - AIADS: When Will Salmon Return to the Spokane?
  15. Aug 08, 2014 - The Daily New: Residents, Cowlitz Tribe pray for return to natural salmon runs
  16. Jul 28, 2014 - The Spokesman-Review: Spawning hope
  17. Jul 28, 2014 - Spokesman Review Guest opinion: Value the water stored in Canada
  18. Jul 02, 2014 - Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Why the Columbia River Treaty matters
  19. Jun 20, 2014 - Righting Historic Wrongs: A conference on ethics and the Columbia River Treaty.
  20. Jun 16, 2014 - The Economist: The Columbia River Treaty: Salmon en route
  21. May 02, 2014 - EPA weighs in on the Columbia River Treaty
  22. Apr 23, 2014 - It’s Unanimous: Northwest delegation says “aye” to Treaty negotiations
  23. Mar 19, 2014 - Spokesman-Review: Tribes talk salmon, dams as Columbia River Treaty renewal looms
  24. Mar 13, 2014 - Seattle Times: Weigh all the benefits of the Columbia River Treaty
  25. Feb 24, 2014 - The Globe and Mail: First Nations push to restore Columbia River salmon runs
  26. Dec 11, 2013 - Tri-City Herald: Ecology, power concerns voiced in Columbia River Treaty hearing
  27. Nov 15, 2013 - Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Consider ecosystem in U.S.-Canada negotiations for Columbia River Treaty
  28. Nov 14, 2013 - Columbia River Treaty: November 2013 Update
  29. Oct 28, 2013 - Spokesman-Review op/ed: Include salmon, climate provisions in river treaty
  30. Oct 26, 2013 - Seattle Times: Roll on Columbia River Treaty
  31. Oct 16, 2013 - What Save Our Wild Salmon is doing to modernize the Columbia River Treaty
  32. Oct 11, 2013 - Why Save Our Wild Salmon is Working to Modernize the Columbia River Treaty
  33. Oct 10, 2013 - Toronto Globe & Mail: With water treaty to be revisited, future of Columbia River up for debate
  34. Oct 08, 2013 - The Oregonian Editorial: The Northwest needs an overhauled Columbia River Treaty.
  35. Sep 27, 2013 - The Spokesman Review: Treaty renewal chance to reopen salmon passages
  36. Sep 17, 2013 - Wenatchee World: Tribes say fish protection must be part of river treaty
  37. Aug 20, 2013 - U.S. Government’s Columbia River Treaty “Working Draft” recommendation has come under fire
  38. Aug 15, 2013 - Save Our wild Salmon submits comments on the Columbia River Treaty (2)
  39. Aug 14, 2013 - The Globe and Mail: Revised Columbia River Treaty could restore salmon runs
  40. Jun 20, 2013 - Renewing the Columbia River Treaty: a-once-in-our-lifetime chance
  41. May 09, 2013 - Paul Lumley: To manage the Columbia River, we need a new treaty for a new era (2)
Save Our wild Salmon is a diverse, nationwide coalition working together to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the rivers, streams and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of our region's ecology, economy and culture.




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