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Columbia River Treaty talks to ‘intensify,’ Trudeau and Biden say

Negotiations between Canada and the U.S. to update the Columbia River Treaty could heat up in the near future, according to the leaders of the two countries.

According to a joint statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden, the two sides “will intensify their work over the coming months toward agreement on a modernized treaty regime that will support a healthy and prosperous Columbia River Basin.”

It follows the 16th round of negotiations over two days last week in Washington, D.C.

The B.C. government issued a typically terse summary of the conversations, explaining that negotiators focused on “strengthening co-operation to support aquatic life and biodiversity in the Columbia River Basin,” including ongoing studies to reintroduce salmon to areas where dam construction cut off their historic routes.

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Also on the agenda was flood-risk management, and the connection between hydropower operations and Canada’s desire for greater flexibility in how its treaty dams are operated.

In their statement, Trudeau and Biden called the Columbia River a “vital shared resource that underpins many lives and industries on both sides of the border,” and said the ongoing talks will focus on “flood-risk management, power generation, and environmental benefits that are shared equitably by both countries and the Indigenous Peoples and Tribal nations, communities, and stakeholders in this watershed.”

The Canadian delegation included representatives of the federal and provincial governments, and the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations. The American delegation included federal agencies as well as expert-advisors from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for May 16 and 17 in B.C.

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