Hello Friends of the Colorado River!
First, your voice made a difference! A few weeks ago we asked you to send emails to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking them to study climate change in their analyses of proposed dam projects in Colorado. Over 750 of you sent those emails, and the Army Corps responded by saying they are delaying the permit decisions on those two projects until 2016 (see our press release here). As we’ve discussed several times in these blog posts, the Colorado River is already severely drained and depleted, and so it makes no sense to be draining even more water out of it at the top of the basin.
We are happy that the Army Corps has delayed the permit decision on these projects, and while we remain hopeful that the Army Corps will deny the permits, we stand ready to fight the permits if the projects are approved. The two projects — Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project — would take an additional 50,000 acre feet of water out of the Colorado River, further threatening the ecological health of the river and the species that depend on it for survival. Thank you for speaking out — we will remain vigilant!
Second, we are going to need your voice again in the near future! The State of Utah has indicated that they will be formally launching the permitting process for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. This pipeline would be a massive boondoggle to drain more water (90,000 acre feet!) out of the Colorado River near Lake Powell and pipe it over to Southwest Utah to fuel and subsidize exponential population growth. Working with our environmental colleagues in Utah, we are going to tackle this fight head on throughout the permitting process.
A scientific study by Western Resource Advocates proved that the project was unnecessary (read it here), and an economic study done by university economists in Utah indicated that the project would basically bankrupt the county that is proposing the pipeline by raising water rates astronomically (read it here). We remain committed to fighting this project and we will let you know when it’s the right time to send emails, phone calls, and letters to the federal government in the coming months.
Third, some mixed news in Colorado. Over the past year, 1,750 of you sent emails to the State of Colorado urging them to focus on water conservation and river protection as they drafted the Colorado Water Plan. Just last week the water plan was delivered to Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper, and it contains some good news and some bad news. I wrote a column titled, “Colorado Water Plan: A Missed Opportunity,” which has appeared in several newspapers in Colorado.
The Colorado Water Plan does indeed focus on water conservation, and it has some OK ideas in it about river protection. But, it also contains plans for 400,000 acre feet of new “storage,” which essentially means more dams, diversions, and reservoirs. So, we made some progress in this endeavor, but we are going to have to remain vigilant in the future. We are deeply committed to stopping new dams and diversions, and to protecting the Colorado River and its tributaries in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Speaking of New Mexico, some bad news there! Yesterday, the U.S. Dept. of Interior decided to move forward with permitting studies for the proposed Gila River Diversion, which would take a new 12,000 acre feet of water out of the Gila River in New Mexico (read the news story here). Despite a massive outcry from local river advocates in New Mexico, and despite getting 2,500 emails from you folks on this email list, the federal government is moving forward with this zombie water project anyway.
The permitting process can take years, and we offer our support to the local groups in New Mexico that are fighting the project. Once again, the federal government dropped the ball and is considering this river-draining project when they should have focused on water conservation and efficiency. We will keep you informed about when to weigh in with phone calls, emails, and letters as the permitting process moves forward.
What will El Nino do to Southern Calfornia and the Colorado River? Forecasters predict that this El Nino will be the strongest in recorded history, and may drench Southern California through the winter and spring of 2015 and 2016. Take a look at this Los Angeles Times story, “Massive El Nino gains strength, may drench key California drought zone.”
If the El Nino also drops a lot of snow on the Rocky Mountains in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, it may fundamentally change the drought situation throughout the Colorado River system and the Southwest U.S. Scientists also believe that the massive El Nino has been made worse by climate change and may wreak havoc across the globe bringing droughts and floods to different areas of the planet. We will keep you informed about how the El Nino progresses so that our programs to protect and restore the Colorado River are pertinent and timely in 2016 and beyond.
Stay tuned for more news you can use, and thank you for your support!