Thursday, July 21, 2016

Agreement protects Arizona's cut of Colorado River water, for now

California and Nevada won't be able to take any of the water that Arizona has been storing in Lake Mead at least through the end of this year, a top U.S. Interior Department official said this week. In a letter to U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor wrote the department won't release any water that one of the three states in the Colorado River's Lower Basin has left unused in the lake "without the consensus of all three Lower Basin States. . ." Flake had been pushing for such a commitment for some time, and trying to get it inserted into legislation. The Interior Department and the other two Lower Basin states had opposed putting it in legislation. But Connor agreed to commit administratively to keeping the water stored in Mead. His letter was sent to Flake on Tuesday. Connor wrote in his letter to Flake that the department hopes that its current commitment will help clear the way for a multi-year agreement among the Lower Basin states to come up with solutions for the lake's declining levels. Such an agreement would require the three states to take large enough cuts in river water to prevent the lake from falling far enough and fast enough to require much more severe cutbacks. The three states are currently negotiating a draft agreement in which Arizona would cut its CAP use by up to 600,000 acre-feet, or 40 percent of the project's total supply, when the lake drops to 1,025 feet below sea level. The other states and the reclamation agency would take smaller cuts. In his letter to Flake, however, Connor repeated his past warning that if an agreement isn't reached, "it appears clear that additional actions, including potentially by the Secretary of the Interior, will be required to protect the basin from the adverse consequences of worsening drought and declining reservoir storage."...more

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