Rethinking the Columbia River Treaty: The 2014/2024 Review

A little more than a decade away, 2024 will be a big year in the life of the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States. At that time, the flood control provisions change automatically – Canada will no longer have to provide annual flood control protection for the United States -- and either nation may terminate the power provisions with 10 years notice. Is it really possible that cooperative management on the Columbia by the two nations might come to an end? Yet how to continue that cooperation in a world quite different from the Treaty’s origins in the 1960s is a big challenge. That challenge includes figuring out how to update a 1960s power and flood control agreement in a 21st century Columbia Basin that cares just as much now for salmon and steelhead and other environmental attributes, and in which many other voices want to be heard. Come join us to hear and talk about the latest in the review of the Columbia River Treaty!


John Shurts is General Counsel for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an interstate compact agency in Portland, Oregon, consisting of eight members appointed by the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The Council develops and oversees a regional power plan for the Pacific Northwest and a fish and wildlife protection and mitigation program for the Columbia River Basin. Much of Mr. Shurts’ recent work for the Council has involved matters relating to the Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada, including assisting the Universities Consortium on Columbia Basin Governance in their series of public transboundary symposia on the Columbia River Treaty. His 2009 paper for the Consortium, Rethinking the Columbia River Treaty, will soon by published by OSU Press in a book of collected essays from the first symposium.

Mr. Shurts is also an adjunct professor at both the University of Portland and Portland State, teaching courses in water resources law and policy, energy law, natural resources law, and environmental policy. He regularly briefs delegations and study tours from different parts of the world on Columbia River and U.S. water, energy, and fish and wildlife issues. Most recently this included groups from the Nile basin, the Mekong basin, Vietnam, the Ukraine, South Asia, and north Africa. In addition, Mr. Shurts served as a member of the Anadromous Fish Independent Review Panel organized by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 for a comprehensive review of the Central Valley Project’s Anadromous Fish Restoration Program in California.