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NW Fishletter #331, April 24, 2014

[6] NW Lawmakers Urge State To Act On Columbia River Treaty

Northwest lawmakers told the Obama administration last week to make a decision on whether to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty by mid-2014, as called for in the regional recommendation submitted last December by BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lawmakers said there should be a complete effort to modernize the treaty by 2015 and that if that target is not reached, other post-2024 options to modernize the treaty should be undertaken.

The recommendation is now in the hands of the State Department, which is reviewing it for purposes of a national interest determination through an Interagency Policy Committee under the so-called Circular 175 Process. Details of that process are unclear, but State has said there is likely to be a regional and national component, and that the latter will be within the executive branch.

Sources said the letter was not prompted by anything besides a concern that without it, progress on the treaty might slip under State's existing workload or general desire not to ruffle feathers in Canada.

The April 15 letter, signed by the 26 senators and representatives of Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, also stressed the need for the administration to "remain in regular and close" contact with the delegation during the IPC process and potential negotiations with Canada. It also asked the administration "to remain open to input from and engagement with concerned regional stakeholders."

Scott Corwin, executive director of the Public Power Council, said the PPC appreciated the delegation's effort. "This is a very useful step to highlight why the treaty is important, and why it is key that the administration act quickly to renegotiate with Canada for a better balanced treaty," he said.

The CRT is one of three boundary water treaties between the U.S. and Canada. There are 15 other water boundary agreements or conventions, including the agreement on the sale of downstream benefits and the agreement on the Upper Columbia River Basin. -Ben Tansey

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