The Lake Roosevelt Forum 2015 conference will provide an opportunity for people in the U.S. and Canada to follow up on commitments and dialog from the Columbia River Basin Transboundary Conference held last October in Spokane, which was attended by more than 300 people from both nations. The theme of that conference was, "learning from our past to shape our future." Click here for conference report.

Co-sponsored by the Columbia Basin Trust and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the conference covered a wide range of transboundary Columbia River issues, from energy to ecosystem management. Participants encouraged follow-up, and so at the Lake Roosevelt Forum conference we are planning three sessions to highlight transboundary projects. These include environmental work in the Arrow Lakes and Lake Koocanusa, and studies that are being planned to assess the feasibility of reintroducing salmon and steelhead into the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam, which has blocked their passage since the late 1930s. On the American side of the border we will learn about habitat improvements and transboundary white sturgeon recovery in the upper Columbia mainstem, and the American perspective on reintroducing salmon and steelhead above Grand Coulee.

"We'll pick up where the October conference left off," said Jennifer Anders, a Montana member of the Power Council and chair of its public affairs committee. "Presentations about efforts on both sides of the border will not only showcase the work that is going on and the people involved, but also the potential for better communication among those who are engaged in similar work."

Anders said the Forum 2015 conference provides an opportunity to explore the idea put forward at the Transboundary Conference in October to develop a more formalized mechanism or structure with international membership to enhance cross-border dialogue on a range of important topics. At the October conference in Spokane delegates recognized that one possible way to address transboundary challenges would be to simply increase the dialogue and understanding on both sides of the border of the issues at hand. This could be done by having existing entities states, tribes, first nations, federal and provincial agencies, non-profits, electric and water utilities working together in a more structured process to explore these issues. The group would have no formal decision-making authority. Rather, it would be chartered by its participants to pursue tasks that could include transboundary information-sharing and a platform for basin wide dialogue on key issues.

Kindy Gosal, Director of Special Initiatives for the Columbia Basin Trust, said "Participants wanted the October conference to be more than a point in time dialog of common interests and concerns. Working with the Lake Roosevelt Forum conference this April gives us a timely way to learn more from each other and follow through on the recommendation to create a collaborative entity to provide vision and guidance to decision-makers on both sides of the international border."