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International conference will explore future of Columbia River

 

The future of the Columbia River is the focus of an international conference that will take place in Spokane on October 21 to 23, 2014 hosted by Columbia Basin Trust and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Registration opens today, April 8, 2014 at www.columbiabasin-2014conference.org.

The conference, “Learning From Our Past to Shape Our Future,” will provide attendees from both sides of the border with unique learning and discussion opportunities about the history and future of the river including topics such as hydropower, fish and wildlife, the Columbia River Treaty, and First Nations and Tribal interests.

This is the fourth conference to be co-convened by the Trust and the Council since the late 1990s and will be co-chaired by two former Chairs of the respective organizations: Garry Merkel of Kimberley, BC, and Larry Cassidy of Vancouver, Washington.

“What are the issues that affect the Columbia River Basin and its communities? The risks? The opportunities? The conference will bring together people from varying backgrounds, from both sides of the border, to discuss topics like these,” said Merkel. “It’s an ideal venue that will help us all become better stewards of the river and its resources.”

The conference will bring together experts and interested stakeholders representing state, provincial, federal, Tribal, and First Nations governments; electric utilities; environmental groups; and citizen groups from both countries to:

• provide a transboundary forum to share information and build understanding on topics such as ecosystem management, international water governance, climate change, and energy;

• provide updates and a forum for discussion on important transboundary issues such as the Columbia River Treaty review process;

• provide information and updates on efforts to restore and conserve salmon in the upper Columbia; and

• identify opportunities to support ongoing transboundary communication and collaboration

“We ask a lot from this river: hydropower, irrigation, inland navigation, flood control, recreation and, at the same time, environmental conditions that support fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species,” Cassidy said. “With the Northwest population growing, with the United States and Canada rethinking the future of the Columbia River Treaty, and with demands on the river increasing for fish benefits, this is a good time to look back at what the river has done for us and then think about what we want the river to do in the future. Anyone with an interest in the future of the river should attend this conference.”

A planning team composed of approximately 40 people from the United States and British Columbia is helping the Trust and Council shape the conference agenda. The planning team membership represents a broad range of Columbia River interests.

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