Columbia River Treaty



crt handshake

Additional Treaty information

    Columbia River Round Table

    Ethics & Treaty Project

    Film:    Treaty Talks

    Paddling the Columbia

 Since 1964, the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the US has governed how we manage the Columbia River.  And manage is the right word.  The Treaty exclusively focused on flood control and power generation, ignoring the river’s fish, wildlife, and ecological requirements, as well as the interests of Native American Tribes and First Nations who have called the Columbia River Basin home for eons. The four dams built as the result of the Treaty, combined with coordinated management of mainstem and tributary dams, wiped out the natural spring and summer surge of flows down the Columbia. That flattening of the river, in addition to the dams themselves, profoundly altered the Columbia River’s ecology. Just three decades after Treaty ratification, thirteen species of Columbia River salmon were listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Turning large sections of the Columbia and its tributaries into a series of dammed reservoirs also resulted in routine violations of the Clean Water Act due to excessive temperatures and chemical pollutants.

Renegotiation of the Treaty could begin in 2014.  The reopening of the Treaty is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the river’s damaged ecosystem for current and future Washingtonians, and in particular, the Tribes and residents of the Columbia River basin. Making restoration of the Columbia River’s ecosystem a third purpose of an updated Treaty, along with power generation and flood control, would change the future of the Columbia Basin and the entire region.

In April 2013 CELP and Save Our wild Salmon, with help from the Northwest Fund for the Environment, brought together a coalition of 12 environmental organizations to form the Columbia River Treaty Conservation Caucus.  In alliance  with the 15 Columbia River Tribes, the Caucus is advocating for an updated Treaty that does the following:

Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam

        Makes restoring the Columbia River’s ecosystem a co-equal Treaty goal with power production and flood control;


        Takes concrete steps to redress the old Treaty’s injustices to the Columbia Basin’s native people, salmon, and the ecosystem; and


        Provides a framework to help people in the Northwest and British Columbia respond to the unprecedented impacts climate change is detonating in our waters and lives. 

Will changing an international treaty be easy?  No, but this is a once in a generation opportunity to change the future of the Columbia River.