Tri-Citians need a say on the river treaty affecting their lives, argues Newhouse

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is asking the U.S. Department of State to give Tri-City residents a say on an international treaty that affects daily life in the region.

The Columbia River Treaty, which coordinates flood control and hydropower generation for the United States and Canada, is being renegotiated.

The Department of State has held town halls in Spokane, Portland, Boise and Kalispell, Mont.

The people of the Columbia Basin should also have the opportunity to offer input at a town hall in the Tri-Cities, he told the Department of State in a letter this week requesting the public meeting.

Utility customers pay the “Canadian Entitlement,” with electric ratepayers in the Northwest providing $250 million to $350 million a year worth of electric power.

It is a higher benefit than U.S. officials originally intended when Canada approved the treaty in 1964.

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There are more than 250 reservoirs and around 150 hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin, including 18 main-stem dams on the Columbia and its main tributary, the Snake River, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Courtesy Department of State

Canada has huge reservoirs that store water to help with U.S. hydrogeneration and help with downstream flood control. Some of its residents want more stable reservoir levels.

Tribal leaders, climate scientists and other environmental groups are pushing to change the treaty to address river flows for fish, not just hydropower.

It is crucial that the questions, concerns and feedback of the people of the Columbia Basin are heard, Newhouse said.