House committee to address treaty concerns

FILE - This June 3, 2011 file photo shows the Columbia River near the John Day Dam, east of the city of The Dalles, Ore. U.S. Negotiators are proposing to change the Columbia River Treaty with Canada to elevate ecosystem function to the same level as flood control and hydropower production as goals of river management. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rep. Doc Hastings will chair a hearing in Pasco, Wash., next week to hear concerns about the U.S. recommendation for renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty with Canada.

The House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing begins at 9 a.m. Dec. 9 at Pasco City Council Chambers, 525 N. Third Ave., Pasco.

In a press release announcing the hearing, Hastings stated that the treaty must remain focused on the core functions of coordinated power generation and flood control.

“The Columbia River plays a vital role in our region’s economy, providing low-cost hydropower, irrigation and navigation,” Hastings stated. “I have expressed concerns with the draft recommendations of the U.S. Entity and look forward to this opportunity to hear directly from impacted local and regional stakeholders.”

The committee will hear from the U.S. entity — the Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — as well as public power representatives and local stakeholders.

Hastings previously criticized the draft recommendation for raising “contentious ecosystem concerns that only serve to distract from the essential task of working with Canada on the core issues under the treaty.”

Matt Rea, program manager of the treaty review for the Corps, said Hastings won’t have much time to put together a reply based on the hearing. The U.S. entity is slated to deliver its final recommendation, indicating the treaty should continue but must be modernized, to the U.S. Department of State on Dec. 13.

“I think it’s important to recognize it is just a recommendation,” Rea said. “There will be plenty of opportunity in the next phase of the effort, the national policy review spearheaded by the State Department, to continue the dialog.”

Rea said the entity has been working to find a recommendation that meets the region’s needs.

“We’ve worked very diligently with a lot of the key stakeholders in the region, trying to find language that satisfied concerns about how we would balance between those operating purposes,” Rea said, citing hydropower, flood risk management, navigation and irrigation interests.

The hearing is open to the public. A live video stream will be broadcast at

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