West Coast
Brandon Hansen

WA - McMorris Rodgers, Murray Lead Bipartisan Group Calling on Biden to Prioritize New Columbia River Treaty

A bipartisan group of 21 Northwest lawmakers called on President Joe Biden on Tuesday to prioritize a long-running effort to renegotiate a 60-year-old treaty that governs how the United States and Canada share the waters of the Columbia River Basin.

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of 21 Northwest lawmakers called on President Joe Biden on Tuesday to prioritize a long-running effort to renegotiate a 60-year-old treaty that governs how the United States and Canada share the waters of the Columbia River Basin.

In a letter to Biden, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Sen. Patty Murray and Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio led the group  urging the president to update the Columbia River Treaty and keep the region's congressional delegation apprised of the negotiations. Efforts to revise the treaty, which was signed in 1961 and went into effect three years later, began in 2013 amid concerns over salmon runs, flood risk and electricity the U.S. sends to Canada under the accord.

"Modernizing this treaty is critically important to protecting our region from flood control risks and ensuring we can continue to lead with clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable hydropower," McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican, said in a statement. "The status quo and lack of communication are unacceptable. It's time for American leadership to step up and reach an agreement that benefits the entire Pacific Northwest in the 21st Century."

The treaty was negotiated  more than 20 years after a devastating 1948 flood washed away what was then Oregon's second-biggest city. It provided for the construction of one dam in Montana and three in British Columbia, completed between 1968 and 1973, that together more than doubled the amount of reservoir storage in the basin, providing benefits for both flood prevention and generating power.

Most of the treaty's provisions don't have an expiration date, but half a century after its signing, changing conditions spurred an effort to modernize it. The Bonneville Power Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers — which together form the U.S. entity responsible for the agreement — began a review of the deal in 2011 and recommended a series of changes to the State Department in 2013.

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