Open houses cover next leg of Columbia River treaty deliberations
By MATTHEW WEAVER
U.S. officials will have a series of public meetings before they draft a recommendation on whether to continue the Columbia River Treaty with Canada.
The treaty is designed to manage flood control and power generation on the river. A provision states that after 60 years either Canada or the U.S. can decide to terminate the treaty on Sept. 16, 2024, with a minimum of 10 years of written notice.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration will kick off a new series of 14 open houses throughout the Northwest beginning at 6 p.m. April 10 at the Northern Quest Casino, 100 N. Hayford Road, in Airway Heights, Wash., near Spokane.
Other open houses will be held across the Northwest.
BPA spokesman Mike Hansen said the open house includes a presentation about the treaty process, now in the third and final phase of analysis.
The meeting will touch on irrigation, navigation and recreation, Hansen said.
The U.S. and Canada are each considering whether to continue the treaty, eliminate it or make changes.
By next fall, the BPA will have a draft recommendation available for comment and hold more public meetings throughout the region. A final recommendation will be made to the State Department by the end of 2013.
The department when then take the recommendation and negotiate with Canada.
Hansen said the U.S. agencies have been analyzing various alternatives, and will narrow them to what should be included in the draft recommendation.
Under the treaty, Canada is entitled to half of the downstream benefits associated to water storage. Hansen said the U.S. is currently paying a value of $250 million-$300 million per year by returning half of the power generated to Canada. The BPA believes the U.S. should be paying much less.
"Our opinion, based on some of the early analysis, is that the value of the Canadian entitlement is significantly less than what we're paying for it now," Hansen said. "In fact, it is worth significantly less than half of what we're paying now."
Canada is wrestling with a lot of the same issues of power generation, flood control and environmental impact, Hansen said. There is no indication which direction either country may be leaning.
"It's way too early in the process," Hansen said. "Based on the history of the existing treaty ... there is real value in the coordination of one of the world's most powerful hydro systems. We need to figure out what that coordination is going to be moving forward and what the value of that coordination is."
Call the Bonneville Power Administration at 800-622-4519 or the Corps of Engineers at 503-808-4510
Open house schedule
Spokane, Wash.: April 10, 3-6 p.m., Northern Quest Casino, 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights, Wash.
Portland, Ore: April 16, 3-6 p.m,, DoubleTree Lloyd Center, 1000 NE Multnomah St.
Wenatchee, Wash.: April 23, 4-7 p.m., Community Center/Vets Hall, 504 S Chelan Ave.
Clarkston, Wash.: April 24, 4-7 p.m., Quality Inn, 700 Port Drive
Coulee Dam, Wash: April 25, 4-7 p.m., Coulee Dam City Hall, 300 Lincoln Ave.
Boardman, Ore.: April 29, 4-7 p.m., Port of Morrow, 2 Marine Drive
Seattle: May 2, 3-6 p.m., Seattle Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.
Yakima, Wash.: May 3, 4-7 p.m., Arboretum-Garden View, 1401 Arboretum Drive
Pasco, Wash.: May 7, 4-7 p.m., Holiday Inn Express, 4525 Convention Place
Boise, Idaho: May 8, 3-6 p.m., Hampton Inn, 495 S. Capitol Blvd.
Libby, Mont: May 13, 4-7 p.m., Libby City Hall, 952 E. Spruce St.
Sandpoint, Idaho: May 14, 4-7 p.m., Community Center/Panhandle Bank, 414 Church St.
Eureka, Mont: May 15, 4-7 p.m., RiverStone Lodge, 6370 Highway 93 North
Kalispell, Mont.: May 16, 4-7 p.m., Kalispell Red Lion, 20 N. Main St.