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Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty

Thanks to you, the U.S. Government’s Columbia River Treaty “Working Draft” recommendation has come under fire during summer comment period.

From the desk of Joseph Bogaard

Columbia River GorgeAugust 20, 2013

The U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty was first negotiated in the middle of the last century; hydropower operations and flood control were its sole purposes. Neither fish and wildlife nor the health of the ecosystem were considered. Columbia Basin treaty tribes were not even consulted at the time nor was there any consideration of the interests of other communities who depend on the benefits of a healthy watershed.
The Treaty is now up for re-negotiation, and the two federal agencies – Bonneville Power Administration (representing hydroelectricity) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (representing flood control) - are leading efforts to develop the government’s position before the U.S. State Dept. heads into negotiations with Canada.

This impending re-negotiation presents a huge opportunity to assure that a renewed Treaty reflects 21st century values, knowledge and economies. "Ecosystem function" can and should join power and flood control as a third Treaty purpose - to use as a tool to rebuild endangered salmon and steelhead populations, restore watersheds damaged by dams, and respond effectively to the intensifying impacts of climate change.
The public comment period for the 'June 27 Working Draft' just closed; thousands of people registered their strong opposition to the Working Draft’s current language (a HUGE THANKS to all of you who weighed in!!!).

We expect one final updated Draft from the government to be released for public comment in September. So we may ask you for your help one more time to help improve the United States' starting position for negotiations and the prospects for a modernized Treaty. SOS and allies have been meeting with members of Congress and other elected officials this month to communicate our serious concerns with the Working Draft. You can view a copy of the letter that SOS and the NW Energy Coalition submitted jointly as our official public comment on August 14.

SOS and allies will continue reaching out directly to decision-makers in the Northwest and Washington DC; and it is essential that your voices - thousands of people supporting ecosystem function in a modern Treaty - also continue to be heard. Thanks again!

Finally, here’s an article from north of the border about the Treaty and its potential to bring salmon back to ancestral spawning beds in British Columbia. Before the construction of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in the 1930s, Chinook and other salmon returned in huge numbers to British Columbia. No longer. But a truly modernized treaty could help change that.

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