The Columbia Interstate Compact represented an attempt to establish a regional institutional mechanism for river basin development. This study is a history of the Compact negotiations, describing the efforts of the seven states in the context of the political environment in which the Compact was negotiated. Several factors which contributed to the ultimate dissolution of the negotiating effort are analyzed in some depth. The most devastating defeat of the Compact attempt came in the Washington Legislature. There the Compact became embroiled in the existing conflict regarding power generation and marketing. Although the Compact effort may be dead, most issues with which it dealt, including allocation of water, reservation of power for states in which a dam is constructed, and out-of-basin diversion, are very much alive.