WENATCHEE — A ‘modernized’ Columbia River Treaty should go beyond its existing flood control and hydropower provisions to include restoration of fish runs, protection of basin ecology and preservation of cultural resources for tribes, two key U.S. agencies say.
The draft recommendation was released Thursday by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Army Corps of Engineers, the two agencies charged with forming a U.S. position on the bilateral, U.S.-Canada treaty.
The recommendations include:
Provide stream flows and reservoir conditions that enhance populations of resident and migratory fish.
Minimize adverse affects to tribal archeological sites from reservoir-level fluctuations to capture melting mountain snow and rainwater.
Determine Canada’s interest in restoring fish passage on dams on the Columbia to provide access to spawning streams on both sides of the border. Salmon’s historical access to spawning streams in the Upper Columbia has been blocked since the late 1930s, when Grand Coulee Dam was built.
Adjust the “Canadian Entitlement” — power deliveries to Canada from U.S. Columbia River dams that compensate Canada for the downstream power benefits of its huge treaty reservoirs. The U.S. recommendation says Canada is deriving a “substantially greater” value from the power deliveries than the U.S. The PUDs share this view.
In place since the 1960s, the treaty governs the way the U.S. and Canada work together to operate their Columbia River dams and reservoirs to maximize flood control and hydropower production.
Thursday’s recommendation comes after years of consultation among tribes, agencies and representatives from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, the four U.S. states that contain parts of the Columbia River Basin.
The general managers at the Chelan, Douglas and Grant County PUDs said they had yet to review the draft recommendation in detail Thursday. All three have said that they and other regional utilities are already paying enough for environmental protections.
“We believe there’s been a lot of mitigation already done,” John Janney, general manager of Chelan PUD, said Thursday. “Each of the PUDs have robust ecology requirements imbedded in our licenses. We spend a lot of time, energy and effort with others to mitigate the impact of our own dams on the environment. We don’t feel we should have to pay for any changes made to the way the river is operated.”
Bill Dobbins and Tony Webb, who head the Douglas and Grant PUDs said they need to know more.
“Once we hear the explanation, we’ll know what it’s really saying,” Dobbins said.
“My take right now is its really preliminary,” Webb said. “I’ve got staff diving into it to figure out what it is really saying to us. It has too many moving pieces to get my arms around it right now.”
The treaty will end in 2024, unless the U.S. and Canada give notice to terminate or modify it by September 2014. The U.S. agencies hope to make an official recommendation to the U.S. State Department by years end.
Negotiations would take place between the State Department and Canada. The region’s PUDs don’t have a vote in the negotiation process, but have organized with other regional utilities to form a joint opinion.
Canadian officials expect to release an opinion paper on their perceived value of the Canadian Entitlement in the coming weeks.
Other considerations, including water use for irrigation, navigation and recreation, could better be discussed after both countries define their official positions after 2014, the draft recommendation says.
If the treaty ends in 2024, its flood-control provisions will continue, but on a pay-as-needed basis for the U.S.
The BPA and Army Corps will accept comment on their draft recommendation through mid August. Send comments to email@example.com or by mail to PO Box 14428, Portland, Ore. 97293. A comment form is posted on www.crt2014-2024review.gov.