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Canada, U.S. governments reach in-principle agreement to update Columbia River Treaty

WASHINGTON, D. C. — The Canadian and U.S. governments say they have reached an agreement-in-principle in the process to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, which regulates the waterway that flows from southeastern British Columbia into Washington state.

In a statement issued from Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal is a milestone that will enable officials to update the treaty to ensure continued flood-risk management and co-operation on hydropower on the river.

He says the updated treaty will also incorporate provisions not considered in the original agreement, including ecosystem health and Indigenous cultural values.

Trudeau says the agreement follows extensive negotiations between the two governments, with input from representatives of the province and First Nations.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a separate statement saying he’s pleased they’ve agreed on “the key elements of a modernized treaty,” and in the coming weeks, negotiators will continue work on drafting an amendment for the treaty.

Biden says the deal would “rebalance energy co-ordination” between the two countries, allowing the United States to keep more hydro while giving Canada opportunities to both import power and export it to the U.S. market.

He says it elevates Indigenous voices on both sides of the border, and the United States would benefit from storage at Canadian dams to help control flooding.

A key component of the original treaty inked in 1961 is set to expire in September, which has added urgency to the negotiations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2024.

The Canadian Press