The U.S. Department of State and the Canadian government have announced that formal renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty will begin in early 2018.
Fish, electric rates and flood protection are all part of the 53-year-old international treaty between the U.S. and Canada.
The headwaters of the Columbia are in Canada, and that country controls how much water is released downstream and when. In exchange for smoothing hydropower operations across the border, Northwest American electricity consumers pay Canada hundreds of millions of dollars annually, under a provision in the treaty.
In November, congressional members from Oregon and Washington state sent a letter to David McNaughton, the Canadian ambassador in Washington, D.C. They argued those payments are too high.
Separately, tribes and environmental groups are looking for an update to the treaty that includes goals for restoring salmon runs above the Grand Coulee Dam.
Interested parties in the Northwest have been asking for a renegotiation for four years. The current Columbia River Treaty was ratified in 1964.