Rethinking the Columbia River Treaty: Will We Get the Future Right This Time?

February 23 at 7pm

The Columbia River Treaty of the 1960s between the United States and Canada is perhaps the classic example of a "benefits-sharing" international river treaty. Canada built three large storage reservoirs in the upstream portion of the Columbia River Basin, and for fifty years, the two nations have cooperated in system operations to provide flood control and power generation benefits downstream. Even so, the people who negotiated the Treaty designed it for a particular future, and the future turned out much different than expected. An opportunity to rethink this arrangement has arisen because of provisions in the Treaty. Representatives of the two nations need to ask themselves again: Are there new ways to cooperate on the Columbia River and bring greater total benefits to the people of the region?

John Shurts is General Counsel for Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and his recent work has included speaking and publishing on the Treaty. He has a PhD in American History from the University of Oregon as well as a law degree from the Lewis and Clark Law School.