US, Canada reach agreement on modernizing 60-year-old pact on Columbia River

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The United States and Canada have reached an agreement in principle on modernizing a 60-year-old pact on Columbia River flood control and power generation, and work on draft amendments will begin in the coming weeks, they said on Thursday.

"After 60 years, the treaty needs updating to reflect our changing climate and the changing needs of the communities that depend on this vital waterway," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement about the treaty, which has been in effect since 1964.

The amendments will aim to "elevate U.S. Tribes' and Canadian Indigenous Nations' voices" and re-balance energy coordination between the two countries, Biden said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a separate statement, said the modernized treaty would reduce flood risk in communities, advance indigenous priorities, and promote clean energy goals.

The Columbia River, one of North America's largest rivers by volume, has its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies and flows 2,000 km (1,250 miles) through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Under the treaty, four dams were built in the Pacific Northwest: three in southeastern British Columbia and one in Montana. The United States paid for the building of the dams, which are used for hydroelectric power production.

The pact entitles Canada to half of the hydroelectric generation capability at U.S. power plants on the Columbia River that results directly from the British Columbia-based dams. Canada for the most part monetizes the power by selling it back to U.S. utilities.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Keith Weir)