Grand Coulee Dam

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A little-known fact about Columbia River dams is that a valuable chunk of the power generated on the U.S. side goes to Canada under an international treaty. Northwest utilities say your power rates would be lower if that electricity could be sold to California instead of being delivered to Canada for free. This week in Spokane, the biggest players in the trans-national river basin are debating whether to extend that 50-year-old treaty.

MrPanyGoff / Wikimedia Commons

Hydropower dams built without fish ladders have blocked migratory fish from the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake Rivers for decades. Tribal leaders from across the region gathered for the past two days in Portland to strategize how to return salmon to their full historic range.

Tom Banse

Once upon a time, salmon and steelhead swam over a thousand miles upriver to the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, there at the foot of the Rockies in British Columbia.  Those epic migrations ended in 1938 with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.  This week, tribes from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border along with scientists and policymakers are meeting in Spokane to figure out how Columbia River fish could be restored to their entire historical range. 

Photo Credit: United States Bureau of Reclamation

GRAND COULEE DAM, Wash. -- Federal water and dam managers are draining reservoirs in the Columbia and Snake River basins to get ready for "big water" coursing downriver. In recent weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for bigger drawdowns, or as the agency calls it "drafting", to protect against flooding. Supervisory engineer Peter Brooks says more room is needed to catch runoff from the bountiful snows of March.