During the last week of May, the United States and Canada wrapped up their first two days of negotiations to modernize the 54-year old Columbia River Treaty (CRT). The CRT coordinates power production and flood control, benefitting both countries. Either country can terminate most of the Treaty’s provisions on or after 2024 with a minimum of 10 years advanced notice.

The U.S. negotiating team, led by Jill Smail, underlined that U.S. negotiation objectives included “continued, careful management of flood risk; ensuring a reliable and economical power supply; and better addressing ecosystem concerns” (source: Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Dept. of State, May 30, 2018).

The flood risk mitigation aspect of this treaty is of vital importance to public safety, regional development in the Pacific Northwest, and Washington agriculture. Without the provisions of the treaty, U.S. flood control would rely heavily on Washington reservoirs and lakes on which agriculture is also dependent. With agriculture being a major economic force in Washington – the market value of agricultural products sold by WA irrigation districts was in excess of $6.1 billion in 2012 – these negotiations must specifically consider irrigated agriculture to protect Washington agriculture.

The Columbia Basin Project provides for irrigated agriculture in central Washington that generates $5.81 billion in cumulative national economic activity annually (2010 Entrix Report: Economic Contribution of Agriculture Irrigated by the Columbia Basin Project). Failure to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty with terms favorable to U.S. agriculture and input from Pacific Northwest stakeholders puts this significant contribution to the state and national economy at risk.

The U.S. and Canadian teams plan to hold the next round of discussions August 15-16, 2018, in British Columbia, Canada.

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