As of Monday, July 3, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. Two Eastern Washington lawmakers have signed onto a bipartisan letter asking President Donald J. Trump to begin Columbia River Treaty negotiations with Canada.
Republican Reps. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane said the importance of the treat that expires in 2024 is of the utmost importance.
The treaty governs dams on the Columbia River, flood control and division of power generation, among other issues.
“Renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty has an enormous impact on jobs, hydropower, water storage, flood control and the environment,” Newhouse said Wednesday. “Managing the flow of the Columbia River and its tributaries governs our way of life in Central Washington in many ways.”
Three Republican representatives from Washington state and three Democrats representing Oregon in Congress joined Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers in penning the letter.
“For more than 50 years the Columbia River Treaty has fostered important cooperation between the U.S. and Canada as it relates to flood control, water storage, and clean renewable hydropower,” Schrader said. “Through the treaty, our communities along the river have been better protected and able to enjoy the economic growth that clean energy production generates.”
The treaty was ratified in 1964 and allows the U.S. and Canada begin negotiating changes or an extension 10 years before it expires in 2024.
In the letter, the lawmakers urged President Trump to use any means possible to get Canada to come to the negotiating table, including the option of sending a “notice of termination.”
All who signed the letter agreed the current treaty is outdated and that re-negotiation should begin immediately.
“We believe these negotiations provide the United States and your Administration with a unique opportunity to renegotiate this international agreement in a way that protects our country’s interests while strengthening and maintaining our historically strong relationship with Canada,” the letter said.
“This is an issue of paramount importance to the entire Pacific Northwest region as it affects our economy, power generation, electricity rates, and flood control needs of communities along more than 1,200 miles of the Columbia River and its tributaries,” the letter continues.
Last year, several lawmakers sent a similar letter to then-President Barack Obama. But the Obama Administration failed to pick up the mantle.
Under the terms of the treaty, Canada provides water storage in reservoirs to alleviate flooding south of the border. In return, the U.S. supplies a percentage of power generation on Columbia River dams for Canadian use.
“Over time, inequities have arisen due to the outdated formula by which the United States compensates Canada for power coordination benefits (detailed in Article XIX), with some estimates showing Canada receives almost 10 times the benefits that Pacific Northwest interests receive,” the letter said.
Canada realizes from $250-$350 million in power benefits annually at the expense of Columbia River utility districts and their customers.
The treaty allows either country to terminate any portion of the agreement with a 10-year advance notice after Sept. 16, 2024.