Meeting held about Columbia River Treaty

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by Stephanie Zepelin

NWCN.com

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 4:41 PM

BOISE -- The United States is fast approaching a deadline to revamp a treaty with Canada.

The Columbia River Treaty plays a large part in how water resources and projects are managed in the Northwest. On Wednesday, the Bonneville Power Administration and Army Corps of Engineers met with a group of people in Boise.

"The Columbia River Treaty is a treaty with Canada on the operation of the projects on the Columbia River. And it's how our two countries coordinate the operation of all these projects for power, for flood control, and we also have some agreements where we can have eco-system function," said David Ponganis, Programs Director for the Northwest Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Soon, the United States and Canada will have to head back to the table.

"Each country has a right with 10-years notice if they want to change, modify or terminate that treaty come 2024," said Ponganis.

The 10-year time period begins in 2014, so the U.S. agencies involved are going to the four states impacted (Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon) to get feedback. In addition to meeting with the public, they also met with people from stakeholder groups. Among those was Norm Semanko, Executive Director of the Idaho Water Users Association.
   
"Canada's taken the position that regardless of why those projects were built, whatever economic impacts it might have, all the projects should be used for flood control starting in about 10 years from now. And we think that would be a bad outcome," said Semanko.

Semanko says changing the use of projects (like Arrowrock Dam), would not be good for Idaho, and he said that's what Canada wants from the treaty.

"If you've ever been to Lucky Peak or Arrowrock you know that there's a big reservoir there, the water's stored there," said Semanko. "If you now have to use those projects for flood control to help with problems down in Portland, you have to empty those out prematurely to provide space for flood control and that could cause real problems."

Semanko encourages you to contact elected officials and let them know what you want to happen.

Wednesday's meeting in Boise was one of 14 meetings. The next meeting will be held in Libby, Montana; Sandpoint, Idaho; North Eureka, Montana; and Kalispell, Montana.

Meetings were previously held in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Wenatchee, Washington; Coulee Dam, Washington; Boardman, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Pasco, Washington.

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