The Gristle

Roll On Columbia

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

ROLL ON COLUMBIA: While political rancor and paralysis continue to rule the District of Columbia, regional lawmakers appear to be coming together around the health and future of the River Columbia—the vast drainage basin for the Pacific Northwest.

A bipartisan group of 21 Northwest lawmakers called on President Joe Biden last week to prioritize a long-running effort to renegotiate a 60-year-old treaty that governs how the United States and Canada share the waters of the Columbia River Basin. The letter was jointly penned by Cathy McMorris Rodgers (the firebreathing Republican from the state’s easternmost congressional district) and Peter DeFazio (the mild Democrat from Oregon’s southernmost congressional district), and signed by Washington Senator Patty Murray. In refreshing unity, the letter was supported by the unanimous entirety of the PNW’s congressional delegation—Republicans and Democrats alike.

“The 1964 treaty provided the framework for the United States and Canada to provide certainty and benefits to both nations,” lawmakers declared in their letter. “Much has changed over the past 57 years.”

At issue is the Columbia River Treaty, a transboundary agreement that has governed flood risk management and hydropower production for more than five decades. Three huge storage reservoirs in Canada and Montana are managed jointly by the treaty that in part dictates how Mica, Arrow, and Duncan dams in British Columbia handle more than 15 million acre-feet of water. The letter urges the Biden administration to update the Columbia River Treaty amid rising concerns over salmon runs, flood risk and electricity the hydroelectric grid sends to Canada under the accord.

With certain provisions set to expire in 2024, regional lawmakers said the lack of certainty provided by an outdated treaty raises concerns about mitigating flood control risks and future use of hydropower, which provides more than 70 percent of Washington’s energy portfolio.

Power benefits to Canada, known as the Canadian Entitlement, are provided through the treaty. Yet recent government studies suggest the United States is vastly overpaying Canada for the benefits it receives—now by more than $150 million per year. This cost is passed on to American taxpayers, and comes at significant economic harm to the region, lawmakers said.

“Modernizing this treaty is critically important to protecting our region from flood control risks and ensuring we can continue to lead with clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable hydropower,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.

“The renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty has been years in the making and after consistent bipartisan, regional communication that has weighed power, flood control, and ecosystem concerns, it’s time to finalize these negotiations,” Murray agreed. “I hope and expect the Biden administration will work with tribes and stakeholders to quickly reach a comprehensive renegotiation of the treaty while keeping Congress abreast of its progress.”

The treaty, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, came together after a 1948 flood washed away what once was Oregon’s second-biggest city, Vanport. It provided for the construction of one dam in Montana and three in British Columbia, completed between 1968 and 1973, that together more than doubled the amount of reservoir storage in the basin, providing benefits for both flood prevention and generating power.

The Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers began a review of the agreement in 2011 and recommended a series of changes to the State Department in 2013.

Their recommendations included letting more water flow through the dams in spring and summer to improve fish passage, decreasing the treaty’s impact on tribal resources and updating flood management and energy sharing plans.

In a figurative (and perhaps even literal) sense, the dams on the Columbia River may have begun to be breached for bipartisan agreement even earlier this year when Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson stepped out with a plan to remove four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore the Columbia River system to health, replacing the dams with new green energy infrastructure. Simpson cited the economic benefits to the health of salmon and the fishing industry in a proposal long opposed by his fellow Republicans. The definition of a geographically unifying feature, the Snake River runs through Idaho and along the Idaho-Oregon border before joining the Columbia.

Regional Republicans broke into a quarrel about the proposal to remove the four small dams (which provide no flood control and limited hydroelectric capacity), a plan supported by the tribes and eco-warriors—which perhaps explains the polar political schism. Simpson declared he just wanted to tell “everyone who would listen” about his comprehensive solution to save salmon.

In this, he found a welcome friend in Oregon—Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, whose staff exchanged scores of pages of documents in support of the Simpson proposal.

Simpson’s plan is not a perfect plan, and is in fact opposed by more than a dozen regional environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Spokane Riverkeeper Alliance. In recognition of this, and perhaps to forestall an agreement sealed too readily, Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee in May released a circumspect statement on the proposal.

“While we appreciate Rep. Simpson’s efforts and the conversations we have had so far with tribes and stakeholders, it is clear more work within the Pacific Northwest is necessary to craft a lasting, comprehensive solution,” the Democrats noted. “We are calling for a formal, regional process that is based on science, consensus, and ensuring all voices in the region are heard. Importantly, it is critical that this process takes all options into consideration, including the potential breaching of the Lower Four Snake River Dams.”

The Democrats outlined key elements that must be included in the plan, none of which appear to be unsupportable by Simpson.

It is fascinating to imagine other broad agreements may be made in this way, methodically laying aside gridlock and partisanship and endless culture war to forge agreements of genuine benefit to the region.

Past Columns
Pandemic Pandemonium

November 24, 2021

Preexisting Conditions

November 10, 2021

Consensus from the Census

September 29, 2021

An Expanding Agenda

September 15, 2021

Primary to the Left

August 18, 2021

‘Free Dirt’

July 21, 2021

Court in Court

June 23, 2021

Crisis In Court

June 9, 2021

A Community of Color

May 26, 2021

Grand Slam

May 12, 2021

Carbon Pricing Reality

April 28, 2021

Third Time’s A Charm

April 14, 2021

Salmon Need Water

March 31, 2021

Mid-Point

March 17, 2021

Carbon Pricing

March 3, 2021

‘Stop The Steal’

February 17, 2021

Camp 210

February 3, 2021

A capricious flower

January 20, 2021

Saturday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

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8:00am

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10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

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10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

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10:00am

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11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

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11:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

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View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

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11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

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11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

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12:00pm

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5:00pm

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7:30pm

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7:30pm

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8:00pm

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9:00pm

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8:00am

Attend a Pancake Breakfast from 8am-10am at Ferndale’s American Legion Post #154, 5537 2nd Ave. Entry is $3 for kids 12 and under, $6 for adults.

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for a Work Party from 9am-12pm at Squalicum Creek. Volunteers will be planting and mulching native trees and shrubs to increase stream health…

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10:00am

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12:00pm

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Holiday Market at Twin Sisters

12:00pm

Local arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, 500 Carolina St. Visits by Santa…

Holiday Market at BBB

12:00pm

For Small Business Saturday (and beyond), shop local at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday at the Beer Garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad. From…

Twin Sisters Holiday Market

12:00pm

Local arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, 500 Carolina St. Visits by Santa…

Boundary Bay Brewery Holiday Market

12:00pm

For Small Business Saturday (and beyond), shop local at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday at the Beer Garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad. From…

An Elvis Family Christmas

1:00pm

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Semiahmoo Sips

2:00pm

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Learn more about the inner workings of a true grain-to-glass distillery when local historians the Good Time Girls lead 21-and-older tasting tours at 4pm Saturdays at Chuckanut Bay Distillery,…

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The Walrus performs at 7pm and Spaceband takes the stage at 9:30pm Sat., Nov. 27 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming events include John Craigie with special…

Sunday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

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10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

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10:00am

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Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

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11:00am

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11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

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11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

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11:00am

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Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am

Attend a Pancake Breakfast from 8am-10am at Ferndale’s American Legion Post #154, 5537 2nd Ave. Entry is $3 for kids 12 and under, $6 for adults.

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for a Work Party from 9am-12pm at Squalicum Creek. Volunteers will be planting and mulching native trees and shrubs to increase stream health…

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am

The Bellingham Farmers Market continues its 29th season from 10am-2pm Saturdays through December 18 at Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. Attendees can expect about 60-70 vendors per…

Open Day for Honey, I Shrunk the Art

11:00am

Attend opening day for “Honey, I Shrunk the Art” from 11am-7pm on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, 2345 Blanche Way. The annual multi-artist small works show can…

Share Spot

12:00pm

Birchwood Food Desert Fighters host a Share Spot from 12pm-1:30pm every Saturday offering free food to take or share in the employee parking lot of the Industrial Credit Union, 3233 Northwest…

Holiday Market at Twin Sisters

12:00pm

Local arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, 500 Carolina St. Visits by Santa…

Holiday Market at BBB

12:00pm

For Small Business Saturday (and beyond), shop local at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday at the Beer Garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad. From…

Twin Sisters Holiday Market

12:00pm

Local arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, 500 Carolina St. Visits by Santa…

Boundary Bay Brewery Holiday Market

12:00pm

For Small Business Saturday (and beyond), shop local at a Holiday Market taking place from 12pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday at the Beer Garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad. From…

An Elvis Family Christmas

1:00pm

Kick off the holidays and award-winning impersonator Danny Vernon for “An Elvis Family Christmas” at 1pm and 6pm in Anacortes at the Swinomish Casino and Lodge’s Walton Event Center, 12885…

Semiahmoo Sips

2:00pm

From 2pm-4pm every Saturday, attend “Semiahmoo Sips” in Blaine at the wine cellar at Semiahmoo Resort, 9565 Semiahmoo Pkwy. A sommelier will pour samples of four different wines from a…

Chuckanut Bay Distillery Tour

4:00pm

Learn more about the inner workings of a true grain-to-glass distillery when local historians the Good Time Girls lead 21-and-older tasting tours at 4pm Saturdays at Chuckanut Bay Distillery,…

Sustainability Showcase featuring Women + Queer Businesses

4:00pm

As part of Small Business Saturday, attend a Sustainability Showcase featuring Women + Queer Businesses from 4pm-9pm at the Granary, 1211 Granary Ave. All vendors will donate 10 percent of…

Steve Webb and the Great Mad Swirl

7:00pm

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Wild Buffalo Live Music Lineup

7:00pm

The Walrus performs at 7pm and Spaceband takes the stage at 9:30pm Sat., Nov. 27 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming events include John Craigie with special…