Making Democracy Work

Regional Issue - Columbia River Treaty




Future of the Columbia River Treaty

For more information on the Treaty and upcoming Town Halls during the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, please visit:


Economic analysis of Columbia River and natural capital was released in early July. Natural capital is immense, and restoring rivers and river health adds to that capital. Hard copies are being printed for distribution. The report and related documents are available online (link)


Past Events:

SEP 28, 2017 EVENT: Healing The Columbia - Modernizing a Treaty to sustain a river and its people in the 21st Century Enent Sponsors:American Rivers  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  Earth Ministry  * League of Women Voters of Washington  *  Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition  *  Sierra Club  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy

Feb. 16 -VANCOUVER B.C.- Simon Fraser University: Columbia River Treaty
Feb. 22-23 - Climate Change & Columbia River Treaty (Bellingham)
March 10 - Honoring the Coeur d'Alene Tribe - Protecting Lake Coeur d'Alene (mining/smelting waste cleanup
April 18-19 - Castlegar B.C. meeting of the Treaty Round Table - (Selkirk College will host)
May 13 Revelstoke One River, Ethics Matter

2014/2024 Columbia River Treaty Review Recap:

A regional recommendation for a modernized Columbia River Treaty has been submitted to the State Department by the U.S. Entity. It recommends that ecosystem function join flood control and hydropower as the major benefits.

The Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada has served as a model of international cooperation since 1964, bringing significant flood control and power generation benefits to both countries.

The year 2024 is a significant date for the Treaty. It marks the end of 60 years of pre-paid flood control space from Canada. In addition, either Canada or the United States can terminate most of the provisions of the Treaty any time on or after Sep. 16, 2024, with a minimum 10 years' written advance notice (hence, the reference to 2014).

Due to the importance of these issues, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration, the agencies responsible for implementing the Treaty for the United States on behalf of the U.S. Entity, conducted a multi-year effort to study these post-2024 Treaty issues. This effort resulted in the regional recommendation which is supported by the four states and 15 tribes in the Basin.

Treaty web site:



ONE RIVER - ETHICS MATTER: WESTERN MONTANA Shaping the Future of the Columbia River Basin

Where: University of Montana, Missoula/University Center

When: April 11, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., reception to follow.

Hosted by: Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and the Department of Geography.



Ethics Conference Overview | Agenda

As Canada and the United States start negotiations over the Columbia River Treaty, the University of Montana will host a conference to discuss the future of rivers flowing through western Montana.

"One River, Ethics Matter" will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the University Center Ballroom. The event is hosted by UM's Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and the Department of Geography and is free and open to the public. Lunch is provided, and an evening reception will follow. Participants are required to RSVP at

Tribal, First Nations and religious leaders from the Upper Columbia River will lead the one-day conference on ethics and the past and future of the Columbia River. The conference series is a multiyear undertaking based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter issued in 2001 by the 12 Northwest Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed, combined with tools used by hospital ethics consultation services.

The conference brings together religious leaders, indigenous people, educators and writers, including:

Ron Abraham, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal councilman and elder Gary Aitken, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal chairman Barbara Cosens, University Consortium on Columbia River Governance, University of Idaho College of Law, professor Jessica Crist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Montana Synod, bishop David James Duncan, writer Tony Incashola, Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee, director Brian Lipscom, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, CEO of Energy Keepers Inc. D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes, executive director Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, author of "A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change" David Shively, UM Department of Geography, chair William Skylstad, Roman Catholic, bishop emeritus Pat Smith, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, former Montana delegate Dan Spencer, UM Environmental Studies program, professor Pauline Terbasket, Okanagan Nation Alliance, executive director "One River, Ethics Matter" will examine the moral dimensions of the dam-building era, focusing on U.S. Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations people, rivers and the life that depends on them, and the compelling need to add ecosystem-based function to the Columbia River Treaty.

Topics will include the Libby dam and its international impacts to the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake; the Hungry Horse dam and efforts to protect resident fisheries; and the Séliš Ksanka Qlispé Project on the Flathead River, a federal license now held by the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the first tribal nation to own and operate a major hydropower facility.

The conference series is modeled on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission public dialogue in the wake of apartheid. The Missoula ethics conference follows four prior conferences in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Revelstoke, British Columbia. The previous conferences focused on restoring salmon above the Grand Coulee dam, floodplain development in the Portland area, the impacts of Idaho Power Company's Hells Canyon complex of dams and the effects of treaty dams in British Columbia.

Conference sponsors for 2018 include the Upper Columbia United Tribes, Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, the Canadian Water Resources Association, the Sierra Club's Montana, Idaho and Washington chapters, the Columbia Institute for Water Policy, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Rachael and John Osborn, UM's Environmental Studies program, UM's Native American Studies Department, the Flathead Lake Biological Station and UM's Department of Geography.

To read more about the Ethics & Treaty Project from the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, visit For more information about "One River, Ethics Matter," visit or email Sophia Cinnamon, UM environmental studies graduate student and chair of the conference planning committee, at

Other contacts are David Shively, UM Department of Geography chair, at; Rich Janssen, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Department of Natural Resources director, at; Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at; and John Osborn, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at

Contact: Sophia Cinnamon, UM environmental studies graduate student,


Film: Boise: One River + Ethics Matter - Ethics, Hells Canyon Dams, and the Columbia River Treaty
Film released: Boise: One River, Ethics Matter On March 14, 2016, religious and tribal leaders from the Snake River Basin and the larger Columbia Basin led a one-day conference on ethics and the future of the Columbia River and its major tributary, the Snake River. The conference was spurred by two events: re-negotiation of the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty, and re-licensing of Idaho Power Company's Hells Canyon Complex of dams. On the eve of the upcoming ethics conference in Missoula, the film from the Boise conference is now completed and released.
Boise Conference Overview

New Treaty film released at the Portland Columbia River-Ethics Conference:

As Canada and the United States prepare to negotiate the Columbia River Treaty, a series of conferences are being held to explore the ethical dimensions of the wrenching impacts of dams on the river and people. The conference series "One River, Ethics Matter" is based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and seeks to modernize the international river treaty based on stewardship and justice principles.

To watch a 13-minute overview of the Portland conference, connecting the 1948 Vanport Flood with the devastation and permanent flooding of river valleys in the Upper Columbia, click: Portland: One River - Ethics Matter
Voices include:

Leotis McCormack | Executive Committee, Nez Perce Tribe
William Skylstad | Bishop Emeritus, Roman Catholic Church
Edward Washington | Vanport Flood Survivor, Portland
Crystal Spicer | Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition, Nakusp, BC
Paul Lumley | Executive Director, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Yakama Nation
Pauline Terbasket | Executive Director, Okanagan Nation Alliance
Rabbi Jonathan Seidel | Light of the Garden Jewish Community
Wilbur Slokish | Hereditary Chief of the Klickitat - Cascade Tribe, Yakama Nation

This film was made possible by Adam Wicks-Arshack and Xander Demetrios (with Voyages of Rediscovery), Shanti Martin (with Fourpoint Media), Heather Beckett and Chelsea Armstrong (with ATRIA), with support from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Please take a moment to watch this short film.
To help, sign the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

Thank you!

John Osborn MD
The Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner
Ethics & Treaty Project


League of Women Voters Resources

LWVID Position in Brief

Support for minimum stream flows; support for comprehensive planning on a basin-wide basis for conservation, development, and management; support for an inventory of water resources within the basin.
Details of Position
The League of Women Voters of Idaho is concerned about the many uses of the Columbia River beyond the generation of electricity. Minimum stream flows should be established as a public right and maintained on streams in the Columbia River Basin. Regional planning policy should provide for irrigated agriculture as well as for the protection and enhancement of anadromous and resident fish.
In order to meet the present and future needs within the Columbia River Basin, the League of Women Voters of Idaho believes comprehensive planning on a basin-wide basis for conservation, development and management of water is essential to the optimum utilization of our water resources. Machinery is needed which will provide coordinated planning and administration among federal, state and other agencies and establish a process for resolving conflicts among uses. Procedures should be established which provide information and an opportunity for citizen participation in policy decisions affecting water resources development. The federal government has a role in financing water resources development, but state and local government and private users should share such costs based on benefits received and the ability to pay.
The League believes that wise planning for the use of water in the Columbia River Basin requires an inventory of the water resources within the basin. This inventory should include all water-related rights, current use and projected needs. This information should be readily available to concerned agencies and the general public. (Adopted May, 1981, reorganized May, 1988)
The 1979 LWVI Convention voted to work with Washington, Oregon and Montana Leagues to promote coordinated multi-purpose management of Columbia River Basin waters through an inter-League task force. With the Oregon and Washington Leagues, LWVI has supported protection for Hells Canyon. Most recently LWVI support Protected Areas amendments of the Northwest Power Planning Council limiting segments of Northwest streams from future hydropower development to benefit anadromous and resident fish and to enhance wildlife habitat. The League has worked for minimum stream flow legislation and the "Water/Power" initiative to set minimum stream flows and continues to support establishment of base flows for individual streams.

Great River of the West - Columbia River; by LWV Idaho, LWV Montana, LWV Oregon, LWV Washington - 1959

1959 Columbia River Basin, Seattle LWV Study


The Upper Columbia United Tribes have a plan to provide fish passage and reintroduction into the Upper Columbia River Basin.

Columbia River Treaty Resources

Concerned Organizations

Treaty Parties - The Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers support the U.S. Entity as well as the U.S. Department of State. B.C. Hydro and Power Authority supports the Canadian Entity, the Province of British Columbia, and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Contact:

For more information about these organizations:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- Northwestern Division
Bonneville Power Administration
B.C. Hydro and Power Authority
British Columbia -- Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources
NW Energy Coalition
Northwest Power and Conservation Council

Library of Reports/Papers/Videos