Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty – Opportunities and Challenges

Year: 2020
Presenter/s: Kathy Eichenberger
Symposium Session: 2020 - 00 Invited Speaker
Topics covered: beavers, canada, climate change, community involvement, and permits


The Columbia River Treaty was ratified in 1964 and has been implemented collaboratively by the U.S. and Canada for over 50 years, much of the time under the radar. The Treaty has been very successful in meeting its two prime objectives: preventing damaging floods and enhancing power generation. However much has changed since the 60’s: different social values and interests, an evolving policy and legal landscape, advances in science, transformational technologies, a changing climate and many more voices clamoring to be heard. It was therefore very timely for both countries to review the benefits and impacts of the Treaty and assess its future: should it be terminated, continued or changed?
To answer this question, separate comprehensive stakeholder engagement processes were held in 2012-2013 on each side of the border, resulting in recommendations to the respective governments on the future of the Treaty. What were the key interests, what did the respective recommendations cover, and is there alignment between them to be found? How will ecosystems feature in a renewed Treaty and what role will First Nations and tribes play?

Formal binational negotiations began in May 2018. As these talks continue, both countries need to reflect on why the Columbia River Treaty is important today and in decades to come, and what are the challenges and opportunities facing Canada and the U.S. as we negotiate a modernized Treaty that is resilient and will serve future generations.