Federal Agencies Hope to Modernize Columbia River Treaty - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Federal Agencies Hope to Modernize Columbia River Treaty with Canada

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YAKIMA, Wash. - The U.S. agencies responsible for managing the Columbia River under a U.S.-Canada treaty, say the treaty needs to modernize to better reflect the current priorities of the Pacific Northwest. 

The 1964 Columbia River Treaty is an agreement between the two countries for developing and operating the river and its dams for flood control and power. Either country may give notice beginning in 2014 that it wants treaty provisions changed or terminated. 

For the U.S., the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working with other stakeholders to develop recommendations on the treaty.

The organizations say the treaty must be flexible enough to adapt to the impacts of climate change and must focus on the benefits to ecosystems in the same way that hydropower and flood control were considered in the original treaty.

Conservation issues have moved to the forefront in the region since the treaty was first signed nearly 50 years ago. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 forced river managers to consider survival and habitat of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead that are blocked by the dams from swimming upstream to their native spawning beds.

Officials say a draft recommendation will be released for public comment in September. A final recommendation is due to the U.S. State Department in December.