Negotiators from Canada and the U.S. will meet again April 10-11 in Victoria, British Columbia, to discuss the future of the Columbia River Treaty.
The negotiations follow five previous rounds that began last year. The most recent round was Feb. 27-28 in Washington, D.C.
Negotiators discussed U.S. priorities, including continued flood prevention, maintaining a reliable and economical power supply and ecosystem improvement, according to a U.S. Department of State representative, speaking on background.
“While we cannot get into the specifics of the meetings, we can say that our conversations have been productive and we are working together to modernize the treaty regime in a way that benefits both countries,” the representative told the Capital Press.
Negotiations are not open to the public or the press.
“We need to ensure a negotiating environment with Canada in which we can have frank conversations,” the representative said.
It’s unclear how long negotiations will last.
“We hope to maintain a negotiating schedule that will allow us to move forward at a good pace and give us time to work on the technical preparations necessary between sessions,” the representative said.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently told the Lewiston Tribune that the treaty should only cover flood control and hydropower production, and that he wouldn’t let the treaty be debated if it includes ecosystem function or anything that could threaten Idaho’s sovereignty over its water.
“We have nothing to share on this,” the state department representative said when asked about Risch’s comments.
“We have discussed flood risk management, hydropower operations, and ecosystem impacts,” the representative said. “We are working to find common ground on these issues. At this time, we are not going into further detail regarding the content of our discussions at the negotiations.
“The United States and Canada have a long, positive history of engagement on the Columbia River Treaty,” the representative added. “We expect to continue that cooperative spirit during the negotiations.”
The representative said the department is committed to providing regular updates, as appropriate, through town hall meetings and updates online and through email.
“We know there are many entities and individuals throughout the Pacific Northwest who are interested in the outcome of the negotiations with Canada,” the representative said. “As negotiations move forward, the region’s patience and support to allow us to focus on the work at hand will be critical.”