Columbia River Treaty
On December 7, 2017, the United States and Canada agreed to begin negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime in 2018. Certain provisions of the Treaty – a model of transboundary natural resource cooperation since 1964 – are set to expire in 2024.
The Columbia River’s drainage basin is roughly the size of Texas and includes parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The Treaty’s hydropower operations and management of flood risk provide substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the border. The Treaty also has facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.
History and Background
The Columbia River Treaty, signed in 1961, calls for two "entities" to implement the Treaty – a U.S. Entity and a Canadian Entity. The U.S. Entity, designated by the President, consists of the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (chair) and the Northwestern Division Engineer (member) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Canadian Entity, appointed by the Canadian Federal Cabinet, is the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (B.C. Hydro).
The year 2024 is a significant date for the Treaty, as the current flood control provisions expire and new provisions come into effect. In addition, it is the earliest date at which the Treaty can be terminated, provided that either Canada or the United States provides ten years’ written notice.
The U.S. Entity forwarded its recommendation concerning the future of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada to the U.S. Department of State on December 13, 2013. Known as the “Regional Recommendation,” the U.S. Entity developed this recommendation in collaboration and consultation with the region through an extensive, multi-year Columbia River Treaty Review. The constructive involvement of the region’s sovereign states, federally recognized tribes, and hundreds of stakeholders helped the U.S. Entity reach this important milestone. (See also the cover letter sent to the U.S. Department of State regarding the Regional Recommendation.)
With the conclusion of the Regional Recommendation process, the U.S. government conducted a review concerning the post-2024 future of the Treaty. The U.S. Department of State is now leading the effort to negotiate with Canada to modernize the Treaty regime. As part of this effort, the U.S. Department of State will keep regional stakeholders apprised of developments and discuss specific issues or technical matters. Should you wish to submit feedback on the Treaty modernization effort and receive announcements regarding upcoming town halls, please send us an email at ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov.
For requests for interviews or on-the-record comments, please email WHAPress@state.gov.
The Office of Canadian Affairs reports to the leadership of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.