Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04), and Senator Patty Murray (WA) today led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to President Biden urging his administration to prioritize the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty and to provide regular, substantive updates to Congress on the status of its modernization.
“Modernizing this treaty is critically important to protecting our region from flood control risks and ensuring we can continue to lead with clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable hydropower,” said Rodgers. “The status quo and lack of communication are unacceptable. It’s time for American leadership to step up and reach an agreement that benefits the entire Pacific Northwest in the 21st Century.”
The Columbia River Treaty was negotiated in 1964. Over the past 50 years, population growth, changing weather patterns, clean energy and carbon reduction state-based requirements, and coal plant retirements have driven transformational changes to the region’s utility sector and broader economy.
“We have been working for years to renegotiate the Treaty,” said DeFazio. “It’s time for the White House to engage at the highest levels to ensure that constituents of the Pacific Northwest are not left footing the bill. Congress must be regularly advised of negotiations and future needs to successfully implement a renegotiated Treaty.”
With the flood control provisions of this treaty set to expire in 2024, it is critical to find out what resources the Army Corps might need to alter its operations should the flood control agreement significantly change in the coming years. The lack of certainty provided by this outdated treaty raises serious concerns as it relates to mitigating flood control risks and expanding the use of hydropower, which provides more than 70% of Washington State’s energy.
“The renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty has been years in the making and after consistent bipartisan, regional communication that has weighed power, flood control, and ecosystem concerns, it’s time to finalize these negotiations,” said Murray. “We want to get to a good deal as quickly as possible for our economy and families across the Pacific Northwest. I hope and expect the Biden administration will work with Tribes and stakeholders to quickly reach a comprehensive renegotiation of the treaty while keeping Congress abreast of its progress.”
The 2013 Regional Recommendation made clear that power benefits to Canada, known as the Canadian Entitlement, must be rebalanced to reflect an equitable sharing of the Treaty’s benefits. The U.S. government and others have studied the issue and concluded that the U.S. is vastly overpaying Canada for the benefits it receives, now by more than $150 million per year. This cost is passed on to American taxpayers. The status quo is not acceptable to the Pacific Northwest and comes at significant economic harm.
In the letter, the lawmakers reemphasized the urgency of prompt negotiation of a modernized treaty and urged the Biden administration to provide regular substantive updates to Members of Congress on the status of negotiations.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter.
NOTE: In addition to Rodgers, DeFazio, and Murray, the letter is signed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), as well as Representatives Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Matthew Rosendale (MT-AL), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10).