Columbia System Too Important to Change
This article orginally appeared on The Columbian.
In draft recommendations released June 27, the U.S. said it wants to modernize the treaty to better reflect Northwest priorities. The feds want to add "ecosystem functions" as a third primary purpose of the treaty, alongside flood control and power generation. But as drafted, the recommendations make fish the first priority.
One recommendation is to send more water over the dams in the spring to aid salmon. But higher water levels could be a hazard to safe navigation, according to the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, which represents more than 130 public and private groups that use the river. PNWA adds that releasing more water in the spring means less water would be available to augment low water levels in the summer, making the river too shallow for commercial barge traffic. Barge operators would be forced to carry lighter loads and leave hundreds of tons of Washington grain and other products sitting on the dock at a cost of $22 million per year.