Canada, U.S. to examine long-standing Columbia River Treaty

SEATTLE, Wash. 7/6/12 (PennWell) — Regulators from the U.S. and Canada are reviewing an international agreement that has stood for almost 50 years, has learned.

The Columbia River Treaty, created in 1964, established how groups on both sides of the U.S./Canada border developed hydropower along the 1,200-mile-long river.

As a result of the treaty, British Columbia constructed three storage dams and Montana constructed one. These were used to regulate flow to areas downstream along the Columbia River and also to increase hydroelectric production. In return for its part in the plan, Canada receives half the gains from downstream power production.

And while the agreement continues to be hailed as a model for international cooperation, several modern concerns have prompted calls for revisions.

Chief amongst the measures missing from the 1964 accord are provisions for the protection of endangered salmon, issues pertaining to climate change, and secondary river uses like recreation and irrigation. Considerations for indigenous Northwest tribes and native groups are also absent from the original treaty.

The Columbia River Treaty doesn’t have an expiration date, but either country can cancel most of its provisions after September 2024 with a minimum 10-year notice, meaning treaty talks could begin in 2014.

The current treaty is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration, alongside 15 Northwest tribes and several state and federal agencies. Officials say they will make a recommendation to the U.S. State Department this coming fall.

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