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Cantwell says Trudeau agreeable to Columbia River talks

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to move forward with talks to modernize the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States, said the staff of Sen. Maria Cantwell on Thursday.

Cantwell, D-Wash., talked with Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion at a State Department lunch in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

“The Canadian leaders agreed to move forward and appoint a chief negotiator to begin treaty talks,” Cantwell said in a statement. “Modernizing this treaty would benefit Americans and Canadians along the Columbia River across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.”

The United States appointed Brian Doherty as the U.S. chief negotiator for the treaty in 2015. The U.S. administration was given a regional consensus on modernizing the 1964 treaty more than two years ago, but little progress has been made, according to Northwest Congressional leaders.

Cantwell sent a letter to Trudeau earlier in the day urging him to prioritize modernization of the treaty to advance both country’s interests in clean energy solutions and address climate change.

The treaty was signed more than 50 years ago to provide flood control and hydropower generation. The current regional recommendation to modernize the treaty is intended to balance those interests and salmon recovery.

A modernized treaty could serve as a template for adaptation strategies to the impact on climate challenges on water resources, Cantwell’s letter said.

It also could allow the two nations to work jointly on energy solutions such as a smart electric grid with intermittent power, grid-scale storage and clean infrastructure solutions, the letter said.

“Given the United States and Canada are among the largest hydroelectric energy producers in the world, there is significant, untapped potential to generate new jobs and drive economic growth on both sides of the border,” Cantwell’s letter said.

Trudeau’s visit was the first by a Canadian prime minister in two decades. White House priorities for the visit included climate change, energy and economic issues.

Thursday President Barack Obama and Trudeau announced efforts to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas over the next decade.

Obama also said they had instructed aids to work on efforts to make it easier for goods and people to move back and forth across the nation’s borders, according to The Associated Press.

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