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PRESS RELEASE: Governors Omit “Colorado River” From State of the State Speeches

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Despite its Importance in the West, Governors Fail to Address “Colorado River” in Key Speeches
Poll results indicate voters prioritize healthy rivers

Colorado River, USA: In the last month, all seven governors in the Colorado River basin gave their “State of the State” (SOTS) speeches, and the one big thing that ties all seven together – the Colorado River – was not mentioned in any of their speeches. An analysis of the speeches, as well as a word cloud created by Save The Colorado (below), showed the complete omission of the phrase “Colorado River” and the word “river” was only mentioned twice and unrelated to protecting any rivers.

All of this neglect is in glaring conflict with a poll released yesterday – the “State of the Rockies” poll by Colorado College – indicating that voters in the Rocky Mountain states believe “low levels in rivers” is their single “most serious” concern.  Further, the poll indicated that 74% of voters in the headwaters states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming believe that elected officials should focus on “conservation, reuse, and recycling” to get new water supplies rather than “diverting more water from rivers.”

The 2015 seven-state Colorado River Governors’ SOTS word cloud is here:

Screenshot (222)

The Colorado River and its tributaries are the lifeblood of the Southwest U.S. – providing water for urban populations, agriculture, and the environment across the entire basin from Denver to Los Angeles. Further, an economic study released last month by the business organization “Protect The Flows” indicated that the Colorado River provides $1.4 trillion of GNP to the seven states.

Further yet, over the past three years several studies by scientists and the U.S. Dept. of Interior have indicated that the Colorado River is in long-term drought, threatened even more by climate change, and an official “shortage” is likely to be declared in the next few years for the first time in history that would decrease the water available for diversion. Reservoir levels are at historic lows, river flows are decreasing, and fish and wildlife habitat as well as the recreation economy along the river are threatened. In 2013 the Colorado River was named the “Most Endangered River in America,” and the river is completely drained dry before it reaches the Gulf of California.

“The Colorado River ties these governors together and creates much of the economy, culture, and environment for every one of their states and this entire region of the U.S.,” said Gary Wockner who directs the Save The Colorado River Campaign from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Their complete failure to mention the Colorado River or to discuss healthy river flows in their speeches is a serious disconnect between them and the voters who elected them. We have a long way to go to get these governors and other decision makers to recognize that healthy flowing rivers are important pieces of regional economies and the environment.”

  • In New Mexico, Governor Susana Martinez has refused to take a position on the proposed billion-dollar Gila River Diversion. She has allowed her Interstate Stream Commission to support it even while many local and conservation groups oppose it. The Gila flows into the Colorado River – the diversion would have dramatic negative impacts on the free-flowing Gila.
  • In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper’s Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund has created a draft of the first-ever “Colorado Water Plan” which so-far has proposed new massive and exorbitantly expensive diversions out of the state’s rivers including the Colorado River. Governor Hickenlooper has not yet taken a strong position on the draft plan, but has indicated he supports conservation more than new diversions.
  • In Arizona, Governor Ducey’s state will likely be the first to feel the pinch as drought, overuse, and climate change continue their grip on the Colorado River – the Central Arizona Project predicted a 61% chance of a “shortage” being declared that would impact their allotment of Colorado River water. Governor Ducey has not yet spoken out about river protection in his state.

The seven Governors are Jerry  Brown from California, Doug Ducey from Arizona, Matt Mead from Wyoming, John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Brian Sandoval from Nevada, Susana Martinez from New Mexico, and Gary Herbert from Utah.  The text of all seven speeches is posted here.

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