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CELP Joins 50 Organizations in Letter to Policymakers on Columbia River Treaty

Conservation, fishing and faith communities call for U.S and Canadian government collaboration as an essential step towards modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to protect the environmental values of this important trans-boundary river.

Fifty-one organizations and associations from the Northwest region of the United States and Canadian province of British Columbia sent a letter today to top policymakers on both sides of the border urging them to jointly develop and share critical information as an essential step to protecting and restoring the Columbia River and its watershed in advance of negotiations to modernize the 52-year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty.

Signers of this letter include leaders from conservation, commercial and recreational fishing, and faith communities. They represent millions of people in both countries. The letter is addressed to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion; United States Secretary of State John Kerry; and British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark.

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here:

http://www.wildsalmon.org/images/stories/PDFs/Fact_Sheets/CRT.US.CA.Ltr.final.us.pdf
“Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to meet the challenges of the 21st Century must focus on protecting and restoring the health of this important river and its watershed,” said Martin Carver of Nelson, British Columbia. Mr. Carver is among the non-governmental leaders in Canada working with those in the United States to broaden the Treaty’s current scope to include a new purpose that prioritizes the protection and restoration of the Columbia River.

The scope of the original Treaty of 1964 was limited to just two purposes: coordinated power production and flood management. The impending negotiations provide an opportunity to elevate the ecological needs of the river and address the mounting impacts of climate change.

“The organizations signing this letter represent millions of people who understand that the health of the Columbia River and the interests of communities in both nations will be best served by Treaty negotiations based on collaboration rather than competition,” stated Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. “Though the Columbia River might span two countries, it is one river within its own watershed. Our two nations need to work together to manage and protect it as a single system.”

The letter states that the greatest ecological benefit will be achieved “if all stakeholders can access and use a common analytic base. The modeling process should be transparent and informed by our combined best available science.”

The coordinated development and sharing of information between the two countries has occurred before. The U.S. and Canada created an international board prior to the original Treaty negotiations to produce common technical analyses and evaluations for both nations. The letter urges policymakers in both countries to “examine this precedent for a common analytic base, and [to] update and expand it with modern tools, collaboration, and transparency.”

“The health of the Columbia River’s ecosystem was compromised from overdevelopment in the last century and now climate change in this one,” said Greg Haller, conservation director for Pacific Rivers. “A modernized Treaty must protect and restore the health of the river, its fish and wildlife and help ensure that its communities are more resilient to the intensifying effects of climate change.”

The letter cites the restoration of wetlands and floodplains, minimizing the impact of dam operations on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the reintroduction of salmon into Canada as examples of what’s needed to improve the ecology of the river. “The Canadian portion of the river was heavily impacted by the construction of dams pursuant to the 1964 Treaty” said Bob Peart, executive director of the Sierra Club of BC. “Treaty modernization offers the best chance for restoring some of the ecological values and environmental services that were lost when the dams were built and that continue to be impacted on a daily basis. The health of the river will benefit if both nations work together towards mutual environmental goals.”

The 2,000 km long Columbia River originates in the Canadian province of British Columbia before flowing south into Washington State. It has been heavily dammed primarily for power, water storage and flood management. The Treaty was first established by the United States and Canada in 1964 to coordinate power production and flood management on the Columbia River. Important provisions of the Treaty are set to expire in 2024 and a window to update or modernize the Treaty opened in September 2014. Over the past 5 years in anticipation of 2024, both nations have begun preparing for negotiations.


June Edition of Washington Water Watch is Out!

The lower Columbia River, below Bonneville Dam - Photo by John Roskelley

The lower Columbia River, below Bonneville Dam – Photo by John Roskelley

Our June edition of Washington Water Watch is now available. Check it out here!

This month, we profile our new board member, Brady Johnson, discuss our intervention into a law suit filed that challenges the Dungeness Instream Flow Rule, update our work on the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, highlight a petition to restore Moxlie Creek and more.


Upper Columbia United Tribes to be honored for at Celebrate Water for their work to restore salmon to Upper Columbia River

UCUT logo15 Tribes and 17 First Nations press to modernize Columbia River Treaty;  await decision from the U.S. State Department

On May 21 Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) will honor Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) with the Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award.  Recognizing UCUT comes at an especially pivotal time in the history of our region:  the U.S. State Department is poised to decide whether to negotiate with Canada over the future of the Columbia River.  The honoring event will be held at Ivar’s Salmon House in Seattle as part of Celebrate Water! an annual event focusing on the future of water in Washington State, hosted by CELP.

The Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) is being honored with the Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award for their work in restoring the Upper Columbia River region, including their central role in restoring salmon above Grand Coulee Dam.  By honoring UCUT, this award also recognizes and honors all 15 tribes and 17 First Nations of the Columbia Basin for their leadership in restoring salmon and the Columbia River.  (view map of the Columbia Basin’s 15 tribes, 17 First Nations, and fish barriers)

In December 2013 federal agencies recommended to the State Department that the United States include restoring the ecosystem as a primary purpose of an updated Columbia River Treaty, along with hydropower and flood control, a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management. All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.

In the Upper Columbia, dams have devastated fisheries and profoundly damaged tribes and indeed the entire region.  The Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) provides a common voice for the Upper Columbia River region through the collaboration of five major area tribes:  the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. UCUT was formed to ensure a healthy future for the traditional territorial lands of Tribal ancestors and takes a proactive and collaborative approach to promoting Indian culture, fish, water, wildlife and habitat.

Celebrate Water! will be held at Ivar’s Salmon House in Seattle, WA on May 21, 2015 from 4:00-7:30pm. A one-credit Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop Water Rights, Land Use, Instream Flows:  Current Supreme Court Cases will be held from 4:00-5:00pm. The Celebrate Water reception will take place from 5:30-7:30pm and will include the honoring of UCUT. Tickets are $50 (reception), $30 (CLE) and $70 (CLE and reception).  More information is available at Celebrate Water!

About the Award

Ralph W. Johnson Award is given in honor of CELP’s founder, Professor Ralph W. Johnson.  Professor Johnson co-founded CELP (along with Rachael Paschal Osborn), founded Indian Law, advocated for indigenous people and justice in the salmon wars, and whose jurisprudence was foundational to the Boldt decision.   Past recipients of the award include the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Billy Frank Jr., on behalf of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

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Contacts –


Join us on February 21!

Your are invited to the 2014 Winter Waters Celebration!

When: Friday, February 21 from 6:30-9:30pm

Where: Patsy Clark Mansion, 2208 W. 2nd Ave Spokane, WA

Click below for tickets and additional information! 

Our annual celebration of water will focus on modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to bring home salmon to the Spokane River and other ancestral spawning waters in our area.  D.R. Michel, executive director of Upper Columbia United Tribes will keynote the evening.  We’ll also provide an update on Oil Trains and Coal Trains by Jace Bylenga, Sierra Club.The event will honor two WSU emeritus professors — Norman Whittlesey and Walter Butcher — for their historic contributions in water economics and ongoing scrutiny of costly federal and state irrigation projects proposed for our region.  Their academic integrity in service to the public has helped protect rivers, taxpayers, and ratepayers for decades.

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) and The Upper Columbia River Group of the Sierra Club (UCR) look forward to hosting you at the Patsy Clark Mansion on February 21 for an evening of awards, appetizers, music and wine.  Tickets are $25, and proceeds will be used to support our river advocacy.