Hi Friends of the Colorado River! Here's this week's updates for our work protecting and…
May 24, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
“Black Swan” 2021 Colorado River Flow Proves Glen Canyon Dam Lawsuit Right?
Colorado River, USA: Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation published its 24-month study predicting water flow in the Colorado River, including this sentence: “The forecast for water year 2021 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on April 2, 2021, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume this year will be 3.64 maf (34% of average).” (page 6, of the whole report here). If the trend continues, it would be the lowest inflow in history since Lake Powell was filled.
Accompanying the release of the study, the Walton Family-funded news outlet, KUNC, reported that because of the historic low flows, the Southwest U.S. states were forming a “new plan” that included draining water out of Upper Colorado River Basin reservoirs to try and save Lake Powell (story here).
Yet, twenty months ago, on Oct 1, 2019, Save The Colorado et al. sued the Department of Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation because the 2016 management plan for Glen Canyon Dam 100% willingly and knowingly failed to consider the impacts of climate change on flows in the Colorado River. In that lawsuit — titled a “Climate Change Lawsuit” (see press release about the lawsuit here) — Save The Colorado included a figure out of the 2016 Record of Decision for the Glen Canyon Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan. In that figure (below), Save The Colorado circled in red (in 2019) the low-flow scenario the federal government refused to consider and omitted from the Management Plan.
Today, the inflow predicted by the federal government to Lake Powell is less than half of what Save The Colorado et al. sued the government about. See figure below. In fact, today’s predicted inflow is so low that the figure used by the federal government’s Record of Decision for Glen Canyon Dam doesn’t even include numbers that low on the chart, stopping at 6 million acre feet.
“We told everyone that the Glen Canyon Dam Management Plan wouldn’t work, but they didn’t listen,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado. “Then we sued the federal government because their management plan for Glen Canyon Dam refused to consider the scientific predictions of the impacts of climate change, but they still didn’t listen. Now, the predicted impacts of climate change in 2021 are actually twice as bad as what we sued the government about. Are they listening now?.”
“The ‘Black Swan’ is here,” said Wockner. “Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are doomed — everyone needs to let go or be dragged.”
But “be dragged” is exactly the “new plan” described in the Walton Family-funded media without any rebuttal or alternative viewpoint, and without any reference to Save The Colorado’s multi-year warnings or lawsuit. That “plan” includes trying to buy water from farmers in Colorado to run it down to Lake Powell, and draining water out of Upper Basin reservoirs, all to try and save Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. Millions of acre feet of water would need to be bought or drained in order to stabilize Lake Powell for just one year.
The Save The Colorado et al. lawsuit is still pending in federal district court in Prescott, AZ. Multiple state water agencies and electric utilities have intervened against the lawsuit, defending the federal government’s willful omission of climate science.
In October of 2019, the Salt Lake Tribune and reporter Brian Maffly reported on the Save The Colorado et al. lawsuit. The story was titled, “Eco-groups sue feds, allege that Glen Canyon Dam plan ignores climate change.” (see that news report here)