Daily Sun News Editorial

Columbia River treaty should be a top priority


Eastern Washington Republican lawmakers Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane are pushing the Trump Administration to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty.

They’re not just advocating renegotiating of the treaty governing flood control and power generation, they are advocated a “notice of cancellation.” While that may sound like an extreme move toward our closest ally and trading partner, cancellation of the treaty may be in the best interest of those of us living in the Pacific Northwest.

Under the treaty, Canada agrees to handle flood control in return for about 3 billion kilowatt-hours annually, a value of between $250-$350 million. In the meantime, because of extreme environmentalists, our state and federal officials have shirked their responsibility to plan for flood control and sufficient water storage. In some cases, they’ve even been the road block to new reservoir construction.

Cancellation of the treaty could result in a power-generation windfall to Eastern Washington residents. And it could force us to build the reservoirs we need to control our own flood control issues and store water for drought years and fish needs. Of course, that would mean we would have to use our power sales revenues to pay for construction and operation of water storage reservoirs.

So, the best course of action would be to bring Canada to the table to renegotiate the outdated 1964 treaty, which requires 10 years notice to change or opt out of the terms. And the sooner we can get terms more appropriate for Eastern Washington on the table, the sooner those changes can take effect.

Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers should be commended for their strong-arm tactics on behalf of the residents most effected by the Columbia River.

Hopefully, President Donald Trump will flex his “Art of the Deal” muscle to make power-generation great again for our region.

The Columbia River is the lifeblood of our region. And the power we export — not just to Canada, but to California and the rest of the nation — could be considered our most important “crop.”

The sooner we can get Canada to the table or decide to walk away from the treaty, the better.


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