Why does the Walton Family Foundation support (and not publicly oppose) most new dams and diversions?
By Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado
(updated Feb. 22, 2020)
Over the past decade, the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart heirs) has become the biggest funder of environmental groups in the Colorado River basin, as well as a significant funder of non-profit media reporting on the river, and scientists studying the river. That funding amounts to at least $25 million/year. As such they are the biggest player and voice in the entire conversation around the river and its threats.
This funding raises many questions and concerns, including their role in supporting (and not publicly opposing) most proposed new dams and diversions. Here’s a list of all of the proposed new dams and diversions in the entire Colorado River basin and the Foundation’s position as articulated by the Foundation itself or its surrogates (grantees). This analysis is based on extensive monitoring of all of the Foundation’s and its surrogates’ public statements, blogs, and media articles:
- Moffat Collection System Project: SUPPORT
- Windy Gap Firming Project: SUPPORT
- White River Storage Project: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- San Juan Headwaters Project: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Homestake and Eagle River Dam: Supports “MITIGATION”
- Fryingpan River Dams: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Crystal River Dams: SUPPORT ANALYSIS OF NEW DAMS
- Cow Creek Pipeline and Reservoir: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Gila River Diversion: OPPOSED ORIGINAL PLAN, NOW UNCLEAR
- Navajo-Gallup Water Project: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- The “Babbitt Diversion”: Appear to SUPPORT because Waltons fund the “Babbitt Center”
- Lake Powell Pipeline: ARGUED FOR ALTERNATIVES, NOW UNCLEAR
- Price River Dam: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Green River Water Rights Exchange: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Green River Pipeline Project: Initially Intervened in Water Court to OPPOSE
- Green River Oil Shale Project: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Green River To Wasatch Front: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Fontenelle Dam Expansion: STRONGLY SUPPORT (authored a report in support)
- West Fork Battle Creek Dam: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Big Sandy Reservoir Enlargement: NO PUBLIC POSITION
- Little Colorado River Dams: Initially OPPOSE
- Navajo Pumped Hydro Project: NO PUBLIC POSITION
The Colorado River and its tributaries are under extreme threat by all of these proposed new dams and diversions. As the biggest funder — by far — in the Colorado River basin to environmental groups, the non-profit media, and scientists, the Foundation’s support for some proposed new dams and diversions, and the Foundation’s failure to take a public position against most new dams and diversions, represents an enormous concern for the future of the river’s health as well as to environmental groups’ efforts to protect the river.
Save The Colorado does not take money from the Walton Family Foundation.