WWU and NWIC to Co-Host Columbia River Treaty Symposium Feb. 22-23

Western Washington University and Northwest Indian College will co-host a symposium, “The Changing Environment and The Columbia River Treaty,” on Feb. 22-23.

The symposium brings together lead negotiators from the United States and representative from Canada, Tribal and First Nations leaders, government representatives, non-government organizations, academics, and members of private industry from across the Columbia Basin to address the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty(CRT).

The CRT is a 1964 agreement between Canada and the United States on the development and operation of dams throughout the Columbia River Basin for power and flood control benefits in both countries. Aspects of the Treaty are set to expire in 2024. While the dams have provided enormous economic benefits to British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest through hydroelectric generation and flood control, there are longstanding concerns regarding the effects on local communities and the environment. In the process of modernizing the CRT, there is widespread agreement that First Nations and Tribes, as well as provisions about fish and other ecosystem impacts, must be include in the discussion as they are absent in the original treaty. Climate Change has also added a new dimension to the management of the river.

Day one of the symposium begins at 1 p.m. at NWIC with a welcome from NWIC President Justin Guillory followed by presentations on the history of the CRT and the Columbia Basin Tribes and First Nations’ vision for an extended treaty. There is also a panel discussion on the changing hydrology of the basin. The day will end with a salmon dinner and reflections on the treaty by tribal leaders.

Confirmed speakers and panelists from day one include Barbara Cosens of the University of Idaho School of Law; Kathy Eichenberger of the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines; Richard Paisley of the University of British Columbia’s Global Transboundary International Waters Governance Initiative; Jay Johnson of the Okanagan Nation Alliance; Nicole Kapell of the Ktunaxa National Council; Pauline Terbasket of the Okanagan Nation Alliance; D.R. Michel and John Sirois of the Colville Tribe and Upper Columbia United Tribes; and Ron Suppah of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.

Day two, at Western, begins at 8 a.m. and after a welcome from WWU President Sabah Randhawa, consists of panel discussions on electric energy, irrigation and flood risk management, and ecosystem and environmental impacts. Panelists and subject-matter experts for the day’s discussions include:


Hydrology and Future Impacts Panel

Alan Hamlet of Notre Dame University; Barbara Cosens of the University of Idaho School of Law; Se-Yuen Lee, a climate scientist with the University of Washington; Francis Zweirs of the University of Victoria’s Pacific Climate Research Impacts Consortium; and Dave Nazy of the Washington Dept. of Ecology.


Electric Energy Panel

Jeremy Benson from BC Hydro; Jennifer Boyer of the Bonneville Power Administration; Brian Lipscomb of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes; Jay Johnson of the Okanagan Nation Alliance; John Fazio of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council; and Scott Corwin of the Public Power Council.


Irrigation/Flood Rick Management Panel

Derek Sandison, director of the Washington Dept. of Agriculture; Kristin Meira of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association; Phil Rigdon of the Yakima Nation; Jim Waddell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (retired);  Bill Owen, Flood Control director, Multnomah County Drainage District; and Kindy Gosal of the Columbia Basin Trust.


Ecosystem/Environment Panel

Paul Wagner, NOAA Fisheries; Cyndie Pearce of BC Columbia Basin Local Governments; D.R. Michel of the Upper Colombia United Tribes; Pauline Terbasket of the Okanagan Nation Alliance; Jim Heffernan of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Council; Greg Haller, Pacific Rivers; and Larry Weis from Seattle City Light.


The symposium is co-sponsored by Northwest Indian College’s Native Environmental Science program and Western’s Border Policy Research Institute, Huxley College of the Environment, and Institute for Energy Studies.

There is no cost to attend the symposium, which is free and open to the public, although attendees must register. To register or for more information or an agenda for the two-day symposium, go to https://wp.wwu.edu/crt/ or call Chuck Hart at (360) 650-3728.