Hi Friends of the Colorado River!
It’s heating up across the Southwest U.S. and this dry April and May is causing lower flows in the Colorado River. Since our organization began, we’ve been steadfast believers that climate change is real and that it will create a warmer and dryer future for the Colorado River.
First, to that end, our boardmember and former Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Dan Beard, was highlighted in a recent news article about the future of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. The article is titled, “QUESTIONS SIMMER ABOUT LAKE POWELL’S FUTURE AS DROUGHT, CLIMATE CHANGE POINT TO A DRIER COLORADO RIVER BASIN” (posted here). The article says:
Former Reclamation Commissioner Dan Beard, who served in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, opposes the continued existence of Glen Canyon Dam. Because climate change and further reductions in runoff will cause Lake Powell to keep dropping, he said, stakeholders should focus their energy on saving Lake Mead [not Lake Powell].
“Lake Mead is the heartbeat of the Colorado River,” Beard said. “It is a vital and important part of the delivery system for water to the Lower Basin states and to Mexico. It is a critical facility and yet it continues to decline.”
Beard is a board member with the advocacy group Save the Colorado, which, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and Living Rivers last year sued the federal government to force examination of climate change science in the management of Glen Canyon Dam.
The litigants say Reclamation and the Department of the Interior should conduct a revised analysis and include a full range of alternatives based on predicted climate change-related impacts on the flow of water in the Colorado River.
“Such a full range must include an alternative that incorporates the decommissioning and removal of Glen Canyon Dam because the projections from the best available climate science indicate there likely will not be sufficient flow in the Colorado River to keep Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam operational,” a press release accompanying the lawsuit said.
We’re thrilled to be putting climate science into climate activism in the Colorado River basin — there’s simply not enough water to operate the system that currently exists, let alone any new dams and diversions.
Second, on that note, we’ve taken a formal position against a proposed new tax in Western Colorado partly aimed at raising money to fund and build more dams and diversions on the Colorado River system. On May 8, Aspen Journalism reported (story here) that the Colorado River District is proposing to put a new property tax on all property in the District covering a vast swath of Western Colorado. The tax — which would double the current mill levy by the District — would fund new dam and diversion proposals and other water projects identified in the news story as “White River Storage Project; maintaining flows secured by the Shoshone call; and the Windy Gap Reservoir connectivity channel”.
The “White River Storage Project” is extremely controversial and would potentially build a huge reservoir on or near the free-flowing White River in Rio Blanco County to divert more water out of the river. In fact, the State of Colorado is currently “opposing” the water right for the project in Colorado Water Court, and some West Slope residents are also opposing it.
In addition to funding proposed new river-draining dam projects, the tax is also being strongly questioned due to the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus. Our boardmember, and Summit County nature photographer, John Fielder, said, “It would be one thing to ask voters to raise their property taxes to make their lives more manageable during economic hard times, entirely another to have them spend the money on another new dam boondoggle, in this case one that would permanently damage the ecological integrity of Colorado’s extraordinarily beautiful White River. If the Colorado River Water Conservation District wants voters to fund projects that enhance the good work that CRWCD already does, sobeit, but to spend it on speculative water projects that have no clear benefit to any of us would be incredibly unwise at this time.”
The Colorado River system is already one of the most dammed and depleted on the planet, and there’s simply not enough water to operate the water supply system as it currently exists. Our climate-science-backed policy is ‘No New Dams and Diversions’ and therefore we will actively oppose this “river killer tax” if it proposes to fund any new dams and diversions in Western Colorado.
Thanks for following Colorado River news, and Stay Tuned for more action!