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Columbia River Basin Water Management

This is the home page for the Columbia Basin Water Management Division, Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We are responsible for the Corps' river and reservoir regulation activities in the Columbia River Basin. Please click the icons on the map to learn more about the various projects in the Columbia Basin.

Columbia River

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Resilient Columbia Basin Agreement and Litigation Stay

A concrete dam on the Columbia River spilling water over spillways.

Above: Lower Granite Dam realeaes water from the Columbia River through its spillways. Lower Granite is one of four lower Snake River dams in the Columbia River Basin.

The Biden-Harris Administration has made a historic commitment to prioritize the restoration of healthy and abundant wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish to the Columbia River Basin while delivering affordable and reliable clean energy, supporting the local agriculture economy, and meeting the many resilience needs of the region. Consistent with President Biden’s direction, the administration is committed to honoring the United States’ obligations to Tribal Nations and, at the same time, recognizing the critical economic and environmental benefits that the Columbia River provides to communities and businesses.

The U.S. Government entered into two memorandums of understanding (MOU) with various parties to stay litigation, both of which happened over winter in 2023-2024.

One MOU is with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to support the implementation of the Upper Columbia United Tribes’ (UCUT) Phase 2 Implementation Plan (P2IP) for testing the feasibility of reintroduction of salmon in the Upper Columbia River Basin over a period of 20 years. This resulted in a 20-year stay in litigation.

The second MOU is with Oregon, Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the National Wildlife Federation plaintiffs that is intended to pause the Columbia River System (CRS) litigation for up to 10 years. This MOU and the commitments made by the U.S. Government, referred to as the Resilient Columbia Basin Agreement (RCBA) is important for several reasons:

  • It will shift the focus away from litigation and the uncertainty that litigation brings and allow for additional focus on planning and completing projects.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will be able to meaningfully contribute to improvements in conditions for salmon and other native fish in the CRS with an increased focus on ecosystem restoration rather than just compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
  • Provides an opportunity to make improvements to system infrastructure and address maintenance backlogs.
  • Leverages the programs and resources of multiple federal agencies to accomplish a shared goal in collaboration with regional sovereigns.

Our Commitments: 

A man in a hard hat talking to others and illustrating his point with his hands.As part of the MOUs with Tribes, States, and other parties, the U.S. Government developed a package of actions and commitments that it believes will provide meaningful improvements for native fish in the basin while still providing affordable and reliable clean energy, supporting the local economies of communities that rely on the CRS, and meeting the many resilience needs of the region.

It is important to note that USACE’s commitments do not call for breaching dams, nor does USACE have authority to take that action. Breaching the lower Snake River dams would require authorization and appropriations from Congress.

Left: Brian Vorheis, Operations Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Ice Harbor Lock and Dam, provides a tour on top of the Navigation Lock of the project. Ice Harbor is one of four lower Snake River dams in the Columbia River Basin.

USACE commitments include:

  • Expanded spill operations to support juvenile salmonids, while maintaining our ability to continue to meet other authorized purposes of the system and with appropriate monitoring and studies to avoid impacts to adult salmonids and other native fish.
  • Seeking increased funding to address the Operations and Maintenance backlog as well as improvement of fish-related infrastructure on the system.
  • Expanded portfolio of ecosystem restoration studies and projects under existing authorities, including Cold Water Refuge projects.
  • Studies to further transportation and recreation analyses related to the lower Snake River projects.
  • Review of existing environmental compliance documents to determine whether additional compliance is necessary.

USACE will continue engaging with our regional Tribes, partners, stakeholders and the public as we undertake this important work. We recognize we have an important job to do, and we will continue meeting all authorized project purposes at the dams in the Columbia River System as we implement these agreements.

Columbia River Basin News and Features

Columbia River lock schedule begins for recreational boaters
Recreational boaters passing through the three lower Columbia River dams must follow a summer locking schedule through Sept. 14. Commercial vessels will continue to lock through upon arrival except...
Walla Walla District reopens navigation locks after extended outage; completes work on multiple BIL-funded projects
COLUMBIA & SNAKE RIVERS, Ore. & Wash. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District reopened navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake rivers on March 29 after an eleven-week outage. This...
Litigation stay agreement increasing Columbia River spill, begins
After an agreement to stay the Columbia River Basin litigation for up to 10 years, federal water managers will begin spilling more water over basin dams this spring than in past years. In the...
Columbia River locks shut down for annual maintenance
The $23 billion of commerce that flows along the Columbia River will pause for two weeks beginning March 2 as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Portland District closes three navigation locks...
23-059 Walla Walla District navigation locks will close in January for annual maintenance
COLUMBIA & SNAKE RIVERS, Ore. & Wash. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District is closing navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake rivers beginning Jan. 14, 2024 at 6 a.m. for an...