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“Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.” -- U.S. State Department
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Pastoral LetterModernizing the Columbia River Treaty

One River.

Ethics Matter.

“Tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada suffered profound damage and loss from Columbia and Snake River dams.  Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty is a critical opportunity for Canada and the United States to join together in acknowledging damage done, right historic wrongs, and commit to stewardship of this great river in the face of climate change.”   

       – John Sirois, One River, Ethics Matter conference, Gonzaga University, May 2014

Conference Links –

One month after Pope Francis speaks to Congress, we invite you to join us in Portland on October 24 for a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River. We will open with Bishop William Skylstad on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. ~  Next, people impacted directly by the dam-building era will describe epic losses suffered in the Columbia Basin.  ~  We’ll conclude with opportunities to modernize the Columbia River Treaty that governs management of the river basin in upcoming negotiations between Canada and the United States.

Floodplain development in Portland:  permanently flooding river valleys of the Upper Columbia River

The 1948 flood in Vanport helped launch the Columbia River Treaty, permanently flooding vast river valleys upstream in interior British Columbia and forcing 2300 people from their homes. You will hear directly from people living in the Upper Columbia about how current flood control for Portland severely impacts the river and people who depend on the river. We’ll explore measures to correct historic injustice — including less environmentally damaging options to protect Portland from floods and restoring salmon to ancestral spawning grounds.

Support is growing to expand the treaty’s original purposes (flood risk management and hydropower) by adding a third purpose: “ecosystem function” to restore health to the Columbia River, including the return of salmon to ancestral spawning waters.


Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, “One River, Ethics Matter” is a conference series exploring the moral dimensions of the impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations and the river itself. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference from which issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty signed by religious and indigenous leaders and many others. Please join us in Portland for the second of these conferences with a focus on flood-risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship.

International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change.  “One River, Ethics Matter” intends to use the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and the tools used by hospital ethics committees to help establish a water ethic as foundational for international decisions on water.


Hosted by the University of Portland



McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics  *  Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission  *  Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition  *  Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland  *  Okanagan Nation Alliance  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon  *  Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation  *  Pacific Rivers Council  *  WaterWatch of Oregon  *  Citizens for a Clean Columbia  *  Columbia Riverkeeper  *  Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society  *  Sweo Chair in Engineering  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  The Roskelley Family  *  Molter Chair in Science   *  Save Our wild Salmon  *  Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club  *  Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter  *  ATRIA  *  Francis Maltby  *  Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club  *  Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


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