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Nine Problems with the “Colorado River Policy” White Paper

November 1, 2016
Save The Colorado

Nine Problems with the “Colorado River Policy” White Paper

Today, a self-appointed group people calling themselves the “Colorado River Future Project Team” released a short White Paper summarizing their positions — and those of hand-picked survey respondents — on Colorado River policy. The survey appears to be intended to give advice to the next Secretary of Interior.

Save The Colorado finds a few things to support in this white paper, as well as several serious shortcomings.

The White Paper does a good job of discussing:

1. the need to move forward with “Minute 32x” and the negotiations with Mexico to restore a small streamflow back to the Colorado River Delta where it no longer meets the Sea of Cortez.

2. the need to stabilize Lake Mead with lower basin action.


The White Paper does a poor job on these issues:

1. fails to interview a range of environmental groups and leaders who hold disparate opinions than the self-appointed and hand-picked group.

2. fails to mention “Climate Change” which is a dramatic shortcoming.

3. fails to discuss almost any of the environmental or ecological problems with the Colorado River including endangered fish recovery, massive habitat degradation in the Grand Canyon and other reservoir-flooded canyons, and drained and depleted flows on the mainstem of the river and many of its tributaries.

4. fails to discuss population growth which is the driver of much of the “crisis.”

5. fails to take a position on the multiple proposed new dams and diversions in the upper basin that would further drain the entire river.

6. fails to realistically discuss the controversy around upper basin “drought contingency planning” including that it would potentially try to drain upper basin reservoirs and farms in order to prop up the hydropower facility at Lake Powell.

7. fails to discuss that the status quo for resolving Native American water rights claims has been to take new water out of the river, which is completely unsustainable.

8. fails to discuss the climate change emissions from methane caused by the operation of Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam.

9. dismisses the dramatic disagreement and likely forthcoming legal fights about a range of issues — new dams, operations of current dams, and Native American water rights issues.

By limiting itself to a narrow band of water policymakers, a few large and like-minded NGOs, and all of their related consultants, the policy direction given to a future Secretary of Interior is likewise narrow and will not address the full range of problems on the Colorado River or resolve the “crisis.” The ecological and environmental problems were almost completely ignored in the White Paper.

It’s a river, after all, which is a living breathing ecological system, not simply a water delivery pipeline.


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