BOISE -- The United States is fast approaching a deadline to revamp a major treaty with Canada over the Northwest's largest river. The Columbia River Treaty plays a large part in how water resources and projects are managed in the Northwest.
Experts say changes to how the river is managed could impact water resources throughout Idaho. At least one stakeholder group says those changes could mean more restrictions for Idaho.
That's because the SnakeRiver is a major tributary of the Columbia, flowing through most of southern Idaho. What's more, dozens of other rivers flow into the Snake, including the Salmon, Boise, and Payette.
On Wednesday, the Bonneville Power Administration and Army Corps of Engineers met with a group of stakeholders in Boise to educate the public and discuss possible changes to the treaty.
... It's how our two countries coordinate the operation of all these projects for power, for flood control, said David Ponganis, Programs Director for the Northwest Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ponganis said the United States and Canada will soon head back to the table to renegotiate terms. Each country has a right with 10-years notice if they want to change, modify, or terminate that treaty come 2024, said Ponganis.
According to Ponganis, the 10-year negotiation period begins in 2014. He says the U.S. agencies involved in the negotiations are now going to the four states impacted (Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon) to get feedback on possible changes.
At least one Idaho stakeholder group is cautiously monitoring the treaty.
Norm Semanko is the Executive Director of the Idaho Water Users Association. Semanko says the idea of increased flood control on the Columbia could be problematic for Idaho.
Canada's taken the position that regardless of why those projects were built, whatever economic impacts it might have, all the projects should be used for flood control starting in about 10 years from now, Semanko said. And we think that would be a bad outcome.
If you've ever been to Lucky Peak or Arrowrock, you know that there's a big reservoir there -- the water's stored there, said Semanko. If you now have to use those projects for flood control to help with problems down in Portland, you have to empty those out prematurely to provide space for flood control and that could cause real problems.
Furthermore, Semanko says he wants members of the public to contact elected officials if they don't support that outcome.
Wednesday's meeting in Boise was one of 14 meetings to be held across the Northwest. The next meetings will be held in Libby, Montana; Sandpoint, Idaho; North Eureka, Montana; and Kalispell, Montana.
Meetings have previously been held in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Wenatchee, Washington; Coulee Dam, Washington; Boardman, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Pasco, Washington.