Dan Wheat, Capital Press Published on August 12, 2016 10:53AM
Five U.S. senators and 16 U.S. House members from the Pacific Northwest sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter Aug. 11 urging the State Department to begin negotiations with Canada to modernize the Columbia River Treaty.
The State Department has stated it intended to start negotiations this year, but despite multiple letters from Congress urging it to do so and receiving regional recommendations almost three years ago, it has not, said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., part of the bipartisan group that signed the letter.
“Treaty modernization and negotiations with Canada directly affect the economy, environment and flood control needs of communities we represent,” the legislators wrote in the letter.
The State Department needs to conclude a review process, approve negotiation parameters, press Canada to appoint a lead negotiator and begin negotiations, the letter states.
The treaty was ratified in 1964 and has not been revised since. Updating it will allow the U.S. and Canada to find new solutions for river management that could provide new opportunities for cooperation on critical clean energy solutions such as smart grids with intermittent power and grid-scale storage, the members said.
Regional recommendations include balancing ecosystem functions including salmon recovery, flood control and hydropower generation.
Senators who signed the letter are: Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash.; Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore.; and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
House Republicans signing the letter are: Newhouse, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Jaime Herrera-Beutler and Dave Reichert, all of Washington; Greg Walden, Oregon; Mike Simpson, Idaho; and Ryan Zinke, Montana.
House Democrats signing are: Adam Smith, Denny Heck, Jim McDermott, Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Rick Larsen, all of Washington; Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter De Fazio and Kurt Schrader, all of Oregon.