Cantwell Applauds Commitment by President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau to “Intensify” Talks on Modernizing Columbia River Treaty

In letter sent yesterday, Cantwell joined the entire Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation in urging Biden to prioritize treaty modernization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the commitment made by U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work on modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

Yesterday, Sen. Cantwell joined the entire Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation in sending a letter urging President Biden to prioritize modernization of the Columbia River Treaty during his visit to Canada.

“The United States and Canada are entering a critical period and need to conclude Treaty negotiations to avoid significant and widespread impacts to the region,” the members wrote President Biden. “Without an agreement, both countries will have to prepare for unwelcome volatility and strains on Columbia River Basin operations, including increased flood risks and economic uncertainty in the United States.”

President Biden visited Ottawa on Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24. This is his first trip to Canada since taking office. In a joint statement released today by President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau, the two leaders committed to “intensify” Columbia River Treaty talks.

“The United States and Canada will intensify their work over the coming months toward agreement on a modernized treaty regime that will support a healthy and prosperous Columbia River Basin,” the joint statement reads. “We will focus on flood risk management, power generation, and environmental benefits that are shared equitably by both countries and the Indigenous peoples and Tribal nations, communities, and stakeholders in this watershed.  The Columbia River is a vital shared resource that underpins many lives and industries on both sides of the border and the watershed requires our attention and prompt coordination.”

For more than 60 years, the Columbia River Treaty has been used to manage stewardship of the Columbia River Basin across the United States and Canada, guiding hydropower operations and flood risk management to benefit people on both sides of the border. Most provisions of the Treaty can continue indefinitely without actions from the U.S. or Canada, except the flood control provisions. If the Treaty is not modernized, the flood control provisions of the Columbia River Treaty will expire in September 2024 and the U.S. will enter into “called-upon” flood control operations, which will require the U.S. to request Canada for flood control on the U.S. side of the Columbia River Basin.