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Managing the Columbia River: Instream Flows, Water Withdrawals, and Salmon Survival
organization, the Northwest Power Planning Council, have served as key entities for promoting cooperative basinwide Columbia River management for over 20 years. The council has accomplished many good things, and adding a responsibility to consider water permitting decisions to its mandate may seem consistent with its natural resources management duties. But trying to integrate these functions in an existing entity could entail complications and drawbacks. A basinwide forum for considering water withdrawal permit applications above a given threshold would provide regional consideration of the systemwide implications of a proposed diversion. This forum need not entail anything binding other than an obligation to refer the applications. At a minimum, proposed diversions would be subjected to professional and public scrutiny, magnitude of risk, possibilities of mitigation, and systemwide equities. A basinwide forum for considering withdrawal permit applications would enhance unified water management across the Columbia River basin. The State of Washington and other basin jurisdictions should create a joint forum for documenting and discussing environmental and other consequences of proposed diversions that exceed a specified threshold.