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James Eklund must allow public review and comment of the “Drought Contingency Plan”

For Immediate Release
Sept. 16, 2018
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

James Eklund must be transparent, allow public review and comment on the “Drought Contingency Plan” for the Upper Colorado River Basin

Denver: After a verbal sparring match erupted in the Sept. 14th Grand Junction Sentinel (see link to story), Save The Colorado is calling on Upper Colorado River Commissioner, James Eklund, to provide a public review and comment period for the “Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan”. The sparring match was between Colorado River District General Manager, Andy Mueller, and Eklund, wherein Mueller was reported to have said:

“We have a very serious concern that we haven’t seen the demand-management document. We haven’t seen what it is our Upper Colorado River commissioner is potentially going to sign within the next month. We haven’t seen those documents that are about to be executed. We’ve been told that we don’t need to see them. We’re not OK with that. We don’t think it’s acceptable. We think those documents need to be shared with us and frankly the impact of those documents needs to be shared with the water users of the Western Slope and the state of Colorado,” Mueller said.

[Image from Aspen Journalism]

The outcome of the “Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan” could be the biggest water related decision in Colorado history. As Lake Powell’s water level continues to plummet, the Upper Colorado River Commission has proposed to enact “Demand Management” that could trigger hundreds of thousands of acres of farms being dried up in Colorado to send their water downstream to try and save Lake Powell. At the Colorado River District annual meeting on Friday, Sept. 14th, Mueller  is reported to have said, “It would take as many as 10 years to get 1-2 MAF in Powell.” (see tweet link) However, Lake Powell is now down over 10 million acre feet of water, and the combined total of water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at their lowest point in history (see John Fleck’s graph in tweet), now down 21 million acre feet. Save The Colorado has estimated (see blog link) that thousands of Colorado farmers would have to be paid a few billion dollars to buy a minimum of a million acre feet of water which would dry up hundreds of thousands of acres of farms in order for “Demand Managment” to have any slight consequential effect on the water level in Lake Powell.

“We agree with Andy Mueller that James Eklund must be transparent and must provide a draft of this important document for the Colorado public to review and comment on,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. “Draining Colorado’s reservoirs and drying up hundreds of thousands of acres of farms just to try and save Lake Powell could have profound consequences on the Colorado River, let alone Colorado’s economy and environment.”

The draft of the plan has been discussed for over two years, In fact, a year ago in 2017, Save The Colorado sent a Freedom of Information Act request (see link) to the Upper Colorado River Commission to get a draft of the Drought Contingency Plan. The Commission responded by sending slide presentations, but said no draft document existed at that time. The comments in the Sept 14, 2018, Grand Junction Sentinel indicate that a draft document now exists.

“Trying to save Lake Powell continues to look like a fool’s errand throwing good money after bad that would have apocalyptic impacts on Colorado’s environment,” said Wockner. “Eklund must turn this plan over for public review and comment.”

This press release is posted here.

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