For Immediate Release
September 23, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS MUST TAKE CLIMATE CHANGE SERIOUSLY ON COLORADO RIVER
Colorado River, USA: As the Pope descends on America bringing new attention to climate change, Save The Colorado is demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to do the same thing as it considers new permits on water projects that would further drain and destroy the Colorado River.
The Corps is currently in the last stages of the permitting process for two river-
destroying water projects – the Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project – which would, collectively, drain a new ~50,000 acre feet of water out of the Upper Colorado River and its tributaries. In wet years, the projects could drain up to 100,000 acre feet (32 BILLION GALLONS), which equals approximately 1 FOOT OF ELEVATION IN LAKE MEAD.
Both projects would divert water out of tributaries to the Upper Colorado River and pipe it under the continental divide over to the sprawling suburbs of the Denver megalopolis primarily to keep lawns green in the summer in Colorado’s semi-desert environment.
At the same time that a “shortage” was almost declared on the Colorado River in Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California in 2015, that a “call on the river” is a commonplace discussion in the Colorado Water Plan process, and that climate change threatens to drain 9%-30% more water out of the river, the Corps may permit projects to drain even more water out of the river at the very top of the Colorado River basin.
In response, Save The Colorado sent two long technical documents to the Corps outlining the threat of climate change and the “call on the river” that could be exacerbated by the new diversions in Colorado. (Document 1 is about Moffat; document 2 is about Windy Gap.)
“The Army Corps must take climate change seriously on the Colorado River,” said Gary Wockner, E.D. of Save The Colorado. “Diverting new water out of the river at the top of the basin will increase the likelihood of a “shortage” and “call on the river” at the bottom of the basin which could completely destabilize water supplies and the Southwest’s economy.”
While the U.S. government allots 16.5 million acre feet (maf) of water to be diverted out of the Colorado River or sent to Mexico (15 maf for the U.S.; 1.5 maf for Mexico) on average each year, over the last 15 years an average of only 12.5 maf has actually flowed in the river due to drought and climate change. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation claims that climate change will likely permanently decrease the amount of water in the river down to 13.7 maf by the year 2060 (see STC’s documents for details).
“The Environmental Impact Statement processes for Moffat and Windy Gap have completely ignored how these new diversions would interact with climate change to force a “call on the river” across the basin,” said Wockner. “The Army Corps of Engineers must analyze this likelihood in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.”
On September 21st, Save The Colorado sent out an action alert to its members asking them to contact the Corps about this issue — 600 people across the Southwest U.S. sent emails to the Corps. The Corps responded: “Thank you for the comment. It will be considered prior to decision-making.”