The states that share the river completed a drought plan
earlier this year that brings them closer to living within
currently available supplies, and a new round of negotiations
on long-term management of the river is due to begin next year.
However, a new report warns that planning for gradually
declining water supplies, as difficult as that is, may not be
enough to adequately prepare for the future.
The question of whether the Colorado River system is a reliable
source of water for the future was the topic of a presentation
held at the Washington County Water Conservancy District on
Thursday. … Utah is entitled to 23%, or about 1.4 million
acre feet under the compact. Utah currently uses 1 million acre
feet, Millis said. This leaves the state with 400,000 acre feet
to left to develop.
Increasing Upper Colorado River Basin water use by just 11.5
percent would double the risk that the Upper Basin fails to
have enough water to meet its obligations under the Colorado
River Compact, according to a new modeling study to be rolled
out in a big meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, next week.
If the decommissioning goes through as planned (the latest
timetable aims for a drawdown sometime in 2021) it will be the
largest dam removal project in U.S. history, with major
implications for environmental restoration, the salmon fishery,
agriculture and local tribes. But a recent Federal Appeals
Court decision is having repercussions that extend far beyond
the Klamath River Basin.
In 2021, four large dams on the Klamath River are due to be
demolished, in part to revive the river and Klamath Basin
salmon. But unless salmon hatchery operations are discontinued
soon afterward on the river, the effort will founder. Allowing
hatchery salmon to mix with struggling native salmon after
removing the dams is like rescuing a dying man only to slowly
Earlier this week, environmental activists and people who lack
access to clean water rallied on the capitol steps to urge
state lawmakers to act. Among them were longtime labor activist
Dolores Huerta and Susana De Anda, executive director and
co-founder of Community Water Center. She joins Insight to
discuss the issue of unhealthy water and its impact on
communities. UC Davis associate professor and faculty lead of
the Center for Regional Change, Jonathan London, discusses his
research on the regions and people who lack access to clean
The Klamath River has seen its native fish populations plunge
and its water quality decline, in part because of four
hydropower dams built in its middle reach a century ago. In the
coming years, these dams will be removed, creating the largest
dam removal and river restoration project in the country. We
talked to Lester Snow, board president of the Klamath River
Renewal Corporation, about this effort.
Earlier this year, the seven states that rely on Colorado River
water signed a collective drought contingency plan. At a
conference last week in Colorado, Arizona Department of Water
Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said his state will take
about half of the water reductions under that plan when a
As the West faces more demand for water and less water
available to meet that demand, decision makers are working to
figure out how Colorado could implement recently signed
agreements to reduce water use in the Colorado River basin,
which includes the Yampa River.
A plan to underground about 2.5 miles of the Escondido Canal
through and near the San Pasqual Indian reservation has moved
forward with an agreement reached recently for Escondido to pay
the tribe for an easement through its land. The 14-mile-long
Escondido Canal transports water from Lake Henshaw to Lake
Wohlford where it is stored for use by Escondido and Vista
Irrigation District consumers.
May 24, 2019, marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of
John Wesley Powell’s ambitious expedition through the
canyonlands of Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, including the Grand
Canyon. … In a new USGS story map, readers can follow
Powell’s epic journey from a remote sensing perspective.
It is hard to fathom how the fifth-largest economy in the world
can settle for letting public water systems serve up
contaminated water. How will our economy continue to grow and
how will we attract new businesses and new workers if the state
can’t provide a basic human need?
Rather than unquestioningly celebrating Powell and his legacy,
this year gives us the chance to think about a couple of
points: First, how are we telling Powell’s story now, and how
have we told it in the past? Is it, and has it been, accurate
and useful? Second, whose stories have we excluded, ignored,
and forgotten about in the focus on Powell?
Nevada ranchers, environmental groups and American Indian
tribes are sounding the alarm over legislation they say could
drain the water supply from rural areas throughout the state.
They’re worried about Assembly Bill 30 in the Nevada
Legislature after negotiations over arcane language in the bill
broke down in recent days.
University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Charles Wilkinson …
described the Western icon and one-armed Civil War veteran as a
complex character, a larger-than-life person and an early
visionary of wise water use in an arid West. Wilkinson spoke
recently with Western Water about Powell and his legacy, and
how Powell might view the Colorado River today.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.
~John Wesley Powell
Powell scrawled those words in his journal as he and his expedition paddled their way into the deep walls of the Grand Canyon on a stretch of the Colorado River in August 1869. Three months earlier, the 10-man group had set out on their exploration of the iconic Southwest river by hauling their wooden boats into a major tributary of the Colorado, the Green River in Wyoming, for their trip into the “great unknown,” as Powell described it.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
For years fisheries experts have watched the number of
winter-run Chinook salmon dwindle as they suffered through
drought and adverse conditions in the Sacramento River. But
this year a small crop of the endangered salmon have made their
way back from the ocean to return Battle Creek in southern
Shasta County, something that hasn’t happened in some 25 years.
And officials hope the fish are the beginning of a new run of
salmon in the creek.
The Colorado River just got a boost that’s likely to prevent
its depleted reservoirs from bottoming out, at least for the
next several years. Representatives of seven Western states and
the federal government signed a landmark deal on Monday laying
out potential cuts in water deliveries through 2026 to reduce
the risks of the river’s reservoirs hitting critically low
Recently-appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has
rescinded a letter of support that Obama-era Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell wrote in 2016. … Matt Cox is with the Klamath
River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit formed to implement
the dam removal agreement. He says rescinding Jewell’s letter
has no legal effect.
The Colorado River — of which the Green is the biggest
tributary — is the main water source for 40 million people.
It’s already overallocated, and climate change is predicted to
shrink flows by up to 50 percent by the end of the century.
We’re finally coming to grips with those forecasts and
beginning to heed Powell’s century-and-a-half-old warnings. But
it’s taken drought and desperation to get us there, and we have
to do better.
Mission Springs Water District alleged that Desert Water
Agency, which also provides water to more than 100,000 Palm
Springs and Cathedral City residents, made a board decision
that violated a previous settlement between the two agencies.
… Last month, the issue over groundwater management in Desert
Hot Springs picked up steam when a study group
formed by Mission Springs published a 16-page report that
lambasted Desert Water Agency’s actions…
It takes more than one wet year to not only refill reservoirs
but also recharge aquifers and return moisture in parched soils
to normal levels. … All this upstream snowpack and rain is
predicted to boost Powell to 47% of capacity by the end of the
year, another three or four feet, but there’ll still be plenty
of the “bathtub ring” visible. It’s been 36 years since Powell
was full. It’s not likely it’ll ever fill again.
After months of tense, difficult negotiations, a plan to spread
the effects of anticipated cutbacks on the drought-stricken
Colorado River is nearing completion. On Monday,
representatives of the seven states that rely on the river will
gather for a formal signing ceremony at Hoover Dam, the real
and symbolic center of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Halting plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River was the
theme of a well-attended fundraising event hosted May 4 by the
Siskiyou County Water Users Association. Guest speakers,
including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Siskiyou County Supervisor
Brandon Criss, former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams
and Attorney James Buchal, author of “The Great Salmon Hoax”
discussed problems they foresee with dam removal which they
believe is far from a done deal.
Insisting the state made a commitment, a central Arizona
lawmaker and farmers he represents are making a last-ditch
pitch for $20 million from taxpayers to drill new wells and
water delivery canals. Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said Thursday
the farmers in Pinal County agreed to give up their right to
Colorado River water to help the state come up with a plan to
deal with the drought. In exchange they were given the right to
take additional water out of the ground.
At the 28th California Water Policy conference held in April of
2019, a panel discussed how tribal lands and tribal
representatives, as independent nations, can be integrated into
SGMA implementation, what some of the obstacles to doing so
are, and how those hurdles might be transcended.
When asked about his priorities, California’s recently
appointed Natural Resources Secretary quickly rattles off a
range of topics: climate change; strengthening water supply
resilience; and building water capacity for communities,
agriculture, and the environment, among them.
Stakeholders throughout the Colorado River Basin just wrapped
up arduous negotiations on a drought plan. There’s little time
to rest, however. Stakeholders are expected to begin the even
more difficult task of hammering out sweeping new guidelines
for delivering water and sharing shortages that could
re-imagine how the overworked river is managed.
Oregon Water Resources Department is in the process of
validating a call on Upper Klamath Lake tributaries, including
the Wood River, filed by senior water right holders — the
Klamath Tribes — on April 18. … Water users that irrigate can
call the watermaster’s office if they believe someone with a
junior water right to theirs is irrigating with water that
should be coming to them.
The Yurok Tribal Council recently voted in favor of a
resolution to establish the Rights of the Klamath River.
According to the Yurok Tribe, the resolution “establishes the
Rights of the Klamath River to exist, flourish, and naturally
evolve; to have a clean and healthy environment free from
pollutants; to have a stable climate free from human-caused
climate change impacts; and to be free from contamination by
genetically engineered organisms.”
The lawsuit against the Fresno-based Westlands Water District
was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State
officials have for years maintained that raising the height of
the dam would violate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a
higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, in
violation of state law.
What happens when there is not enough surface water to go
around in a watershed? California water rights law says that
certain water users must curtail their water diversions — in
other words, reduce the amount of water they divert or stop
diverting water altogether. … But following water right
priorities is not always straightforward, and other aspects of
state and federal law complicate the picture …
The DCP … provides assurance against curtailments for water
stored behind Hoover Dam. This is especially important for the
Southern California water agencies, whose ability to store
water in Lake Mead is crucial for managing seasonal demands.
Some significant challenges must still be addressed, however.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially added the
Copper Bluff Mine in Hoopa to the Superfund National Priorities
list, one of seven sites added across the county and the only
one in California. … In the meantime, the mine continues to
leak acid drainage. Anywhere from 3 to 500 gallons of
contaminants are leaked into the Trinity River per minute…
To get access to Colorado River water, the tribe is hoping its
federal water settlement will finally become law. Earlier this
month, Arizona’s congressional delegation sponsored another
settlement bill after similar efforts in 2017 and 2016. If a
water rights settlement became law, the Hualapai Tribe would
get 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year.
Various parties have recently claimed that the Klamath River
Compact Commission has authority over the proposal to remove
four dams in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. … This
argument, while creative, is wrong. The Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (or FERC) will decide whether the
proposed dam removal is in the public interest.
The West is still in the midst of a long-term water shortage in
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, primary reservoirs that serve 40
million people. For that reason, the Upper Basin states —
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — have to also come up
with their own drought contingency plans. That means Colorado
might be heading into choppy waters as one of the requirements
of a drought contingency plan — demand management — could pit
communities and regions against each other …
Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.
In the past several years, Los Angeles-based Renewable
Resources Group has helped sell 33,000 acres of land to
California’s most powerful water agency, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. Documents obtained by Voice of
San Diego raise fresh questions about those deals. Now,
Renewable may be working on another deal that could rearrange
the distribution of water in California forever.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the snowpack in the
Upper Basin is nearly 140% above average as of April 15 and it
forecasts that seasonal inflow to Lake Powell will be at 128%
of average. … “These developments may lessen the chance of
shortage in 2020,” Terry Fulp, BOR’s Lower Colorado regional
director, said in a prepared statement.
The giant reservoir, formed by Glen Canyon Dam, was under 40
percent full the last week of April. And a lot of water is
still being released from the reservoir, more demands on the
water are expected, and the water supply above the reservoir,
in the sprawling Colorado River system, is expected to
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multi‐year drought, were designed to prevent disputes that
could provoke conflict. But as the time for crafting a new set
of rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result
will be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
It’s taken four years but fishermen along California’s North
Coast who have seen crab and salmon seasons truncated and even
closed altogether will finally see some relief after $29.65
million in federal disaster relief funding was approved by
Congress. It was in the 2015-16 year the Dungeness crab fishery
and the Yurok Chinook salmon fishery both collapsed due to poor
DCP puts safeguards in place to help manage water use now and
better deal with a potential shortage. Utah, Arizona and the
five other Colorado River basin states wisely chose to include
conservation measures in the DCP — and shared in their
sacrifice to avoid costly litigation and imposed cuts. Congress
and the states should be commended for this bipartisan,
The drought contingency plan is in the can (well, mostly), and
an unusually wet winter means we’ll likely avoid the water
shortage declaration everyone was expecting in 2020. If this
were the past, we’d take a few months off to revel in our
success. But thank goodness we’re not living in the past.
Arizona’s water leaders know that the drought plan didn’t solve
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California issued a decision … finding that the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians lacked standing to seek
adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved
groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.
As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve
contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last
week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill
prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.
Some lawyers say the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, may be
built on shaky legal ground and could be vulnerable to
litigation — depending on how the Bureau of Reclamation
implements it. One California water district has already sued
to block it.
Groundwater levels throughout most of the Coachella Valley have
increased significantly over the past decade, according to an
annual analysis released today by the local water district. …
The report documents “significant increases” in groundwater
levels in the range of 2-50 feet in the past decade in
most of the Indio Subbasin, located under the cities of
Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert,
Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella…
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
A federal judge has dismissed portions of a yearslong lawsuit
brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against
the Coachella Valley’s local water districts, ruling against
the tribe’s attempt to quantify its rights to groundwater. The
judge ruled Friday that the tribe’s access to water has not
been sufficiently harmed to adjudicate the matter.
Here’s what we know. The lower Klamath dams and reservoirs do
not provide multipurpose water storage, flood protection, or
irreplaceable energy. What they do provide are major barriers
to fish migration, toxic blue-green algae and fish disease (C.
shasta). The dwindling fish populations are proof. We must move
forward with removing the dams and restoring the Klamath to the
free-flowing river it once was.
California’s inability to compromise and work together has put
a big question mark on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Plan. And that directly impacts Arizona’s ability to
proactively plan for our new, drier water future.
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by
California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat
to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But
Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources,
said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not
Congressman Jared Huffman says the Water, Oceans and Wildlife
Subcommittee, which he chairs in the U.S. House of
Representatives, is finally getting to do things “we weren’t
allowed to do” for the past six years when Republicans
controlled the House. Things like protecting public lands,
making climate change part of all environmental programs,
trying to prevent offshore drilling and looking at the state of
the nation’s wildlife and fisheries.
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an
important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists
working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million
people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed
five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed
that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since
2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money
came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado,
and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000
acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s
the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river.
These projects are in different stages of permitting and
funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the
river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the
Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The
$3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam
Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that
provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million
in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s
reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant
attention. (First of two parts.)
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,
alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality
Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and
Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to
suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a
thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
Wade Crowfoot, California’s new Natural Resources Secretary,
recently delivered a keynote address at Los Angeles Business
Council’s annual Sustainability Summit. He focused on the
economic, social and environmental challenges the state and
localities are addressing in response to a new climate normal;
on prioritizing new wildfire and water supply & stormwater
policies; and, commended the city of Los Angeles for its
ambitious climate actions.
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts
a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake
Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage
declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in
the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with
flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average
during the runoff season.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan
for Western states to take less water from the overburdened
Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long
process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven
states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from
Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a
hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan
resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress
has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado
River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we
work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest
challenges facing our nation today.
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation,
who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and
federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy
conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t
available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of
this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think
that sets the stage for that to happen.”
On the northern tip of California … Calpine Corporation won a
U.S. government contract in 1982 to explore geothermal energy
on 2,560 acres of national forest in the Medicine Lake
Highlands of Siskiyou County. Now some 37 years later, members
of the Pit River Tribe claim the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) has allowed Calpine to squat on their sacred land for
decades, even as the company fails to meet lease renewal
requirements by making “diligent efforts” to produce geothermal
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key
positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics
program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that
critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a
multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and
thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s
already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary,
he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on
Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for
his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water
issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated
on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver
at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation —
rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the
Klamath Project this summer and fall.
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill
following pressure from conservationists, American Indian
tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from
remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the
bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate
to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages
their concerns about the pipeline.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought
pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said
Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.”
… IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm
commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal
funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a
drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of
shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White
House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to
protect water users from deep losses and keep the
reservoirs and river healthy.
Officials met in Imperial Beach Friday to discuss the sewage
pollution that continues to plague South Bay shorelines —
shuttering beaches more than 100 days every year. The event was
billed as an “inaugural dialogue,” which in the future will
include a host of other binational issues, including climate
change and commerce.
Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is
blessed with water. The very names associated with the most
prominent places and businesses in the desert, such as the
Oasis Hotel, Mineral Springs Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells,
Palm Springs, Snow Creek, and Tahquitz River Estates, all
conjure up pretty images of water. But the early story of
desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque: it quite
literally can be seen as a history of ditches.
Klamath Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit against
Reclamation in federal court in Medford. Klamath Water Users
Association will follow suit in a separate legal filing,
jointly with Klamath Drainage District, Shasta View Irrigation
District, Tulelake Irrigation District and individual farmers
Rob Unruh and DuVal. Limitation to water supply stem from
protections in the biological opinion for endangered sucker in
Upper Klamath Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel testified Thursday
that lack of water has been killing crops and livestock – and,
essentially, the tribe’s economy – and things will only get
worse if federal funding is allowed to lapse. That’s why Manuel
joined officials from other tribes, utilities and advocacy
groups to urge passage of a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva,
D-Tucson, that would make permanent a federal fund used to help
the government meet its obligations under legal settlements
over water-rights issues.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced
that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to
divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any
time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the
water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense
because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as
streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix
on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the
Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning
fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive
fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes
Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the
PG&E’s announcement it would no longer seek a new license
to operate the complex set FERC’s “orphan project” process in
motion… Prospective licensees have until July 1 to file
applications with FERC. … A new licensee must be able to pay
for the continued maintenance and operation of all project
facilities and be capable of monitoring and complying with
regulatory requirements arising from the project’s impacts.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial
Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal
legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were
left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced
legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of
water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S.
West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul
Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the
chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states
signed on as co-sponsors.
The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other
Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade
the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have
been better served – and made more believable – by a show of
good faith rather than a show of force.
Too often considered a problem confined to the Central Valley
and agricultural communities, the fact is that lack of access
to safe, clean drinking water in school water fountains and
home faucets affects every region of our state. This is a
situation Gov. Gavin Newsom has rightly called a “disgrace” and
has made it a priority to fix the crisis. In this life-saving
endeavor, he has the support of Silicon Valley’s most
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of
shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On
Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency
Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who
crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate
subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both
chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would
allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action
on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River,
which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and
Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got
a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee
that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll
introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in
more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for
dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought
agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step
toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for
implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a
strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has
left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea,
California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the
case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on
to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if
they change their minds. But with or without IID’s
participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and
Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought
contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from
Congress to implement it.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran
environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his
in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its
Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before
the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing
additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While
the administration found the deal would not have a significant
impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection
of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it
will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
An interview with Don Hankins, professor of geography and
planning at Chico State and a Plains Miwok traditional cultural
practitioner. He has spent his academic career working on water
and fire issues in California, with a focus on applied
traditional Indigenous stewardship.
Past droughts have stress-tested California’s water management
institutions, and some of the vulnerabilities they revealed
still linger today. Given that climate change is expected to
increase the frequency and intensity of future droughts,
recognizing and addressing institutional vulnerabilities is
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency
plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is
pushing legislation that would exempt its work from
environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what
has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought
negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health
and ecological disaster.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states
… ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River
Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial
Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s
simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of
basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her
energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado
River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the
Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a
different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take
the helm of the United States section of the International
Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that
oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in
excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County
supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the
effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community
Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public
Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath
Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many
Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and
commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where
84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River
and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a
massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the
eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan
from proceeding, and its board president called the latest
development a violation of California environmental law.
But Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
others in a working group are finalizing new documents to
remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced
a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get
$20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado
River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate
Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook
argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the
drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
Environmental groups Monday asked a federal appeals court to
reconsider a ruling that struck down part of a high-profile
removal plan for four dams on the Klamath River in California
and Oregon, saying it set a precedent that would exempt dozens
of dams nationwide from meeting water quality standards.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to
shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board
voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the
drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water
than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation
District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal
government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan
for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning
up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada
and five other Western states sent a letter to California on
Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their
concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the
so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if
dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any
water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson,
Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the
doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water
managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought
Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce
water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a
reliable water supply.
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new
forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s
largest community continue to rely on a single source of water
to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the
most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the
river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more
than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Environmentalists and rural water users expressed broad support
last week for a bill that would create small water reserves in
aquifers across Nevada. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by
Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Nev., aims to
prevent regulators from issuing more rights to water than there
is water available, an issue already playing out in more than
100 groundwater basins.
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an
estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is
protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of
legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily
populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks
out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s
major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by
overturning those two laws.
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of
Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in
the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should
do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s
just two weeks for them to do that.
About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single
groundwater well for water. The whole tribe now wants access to
the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water,
Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water.
Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a
bill that could make it happen.
We hope the move by MWD — which in 2016 had played
hardball of its own by linking its support of the Colorado
River drought plan to federal and state support of a Delta
water project — doesn’t again sidetrack true federal
involvement at the Salton Sea.
Plans to give Nevada’s top water official more flexibility to
wade into water rights disputes got a rough reception in the
state Legislature. Farmers, conservationists and American
Indians from Nevada and Utah turned out in opposition to the
proposals in two bills. No one spoke in support of measures
critics say would direct more water toward urban and suburban
development at the expense of farming, ranching and the
environment in rural valleys.
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the
Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend
city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the
notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests
of the community.
The new House of Representatives is rolling out its game plan
and strategies for the next two years, and it’s clear which
state holds the most clout: California. … California now has
more Democrats in the lower chamber than the entire
congressional delegations of Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Washington combined. The state’s
power to shape the agenda goes beyond leadership. In the
environment and energy fields, 12 Californians are subcommittee
chairs and vice chairs.
Hundreds of thousands of threatened red coho and hook-jawed
Chinook salmon used to swim here, nearly 200 miles from where
the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. … But by the
2000s, their numbers had dwindled to just a few dozen adults
each year. Since size largely determines whether juvenile fish
survive, conservation organizations have been interested in
this particular property, which includes the entire 2.2-mile
length of the Big Springs Creek and 7.5-miles of the Shasta
River, for decades.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that
would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water
rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said
would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought
contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to
sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000
acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
What may be the nation’s largest dam removal project—delayed
for years by regulatory and legal disputes of a utility,
stakeholders and states over licensing and environmental
permits—now may have new momentum after a hard-hitting January
federal appeals court ruling. Kiewit Infrastructure West,
Granite Construction and Barnard Construction are shortlisted
for the $400-million project to design and deconstruct four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in California and
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said
in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty
Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens
the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The
Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s
entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that
passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received
confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S.
Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the
docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the
SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer
of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not
interested in engaging in water settlement discussions.
However, we are very interested in discussions that will
protect and enhance our treaty resources.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and
largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using
that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in
current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states
that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID
is putting in play: A demand that the federal government
provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The
U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least
$1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The
river was already virtually tapped out last century, and
continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step
in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely
caused a ripple.
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to
manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern
California communities. … About two dozen protesters are
standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou
County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border.
They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made
Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing
under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision was
in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe
and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to
list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the
protections of a listed species.
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not
sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That
notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the
Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls
recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River
Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior
should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency
For every one of the nearly two dozen people who spoke at a
public hearing Wednesday in Arcata, removing the dams is both
necessary and overdue. Fishing populations have been depleted
and stretches of the river have become toxic because it doesn’t
flow freely, attendees said at the D Neighborhood Center public
hearing. Members of various state agencies, including the state
Division of Water Rights and the state Water Resources Control
Board, listened and took notes. The agencies’ draft EIR is the
latest step in a process spanning many years.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will
consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the
Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under
the California Endangered Species Act. The California
Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and
Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by
the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license
begin this week, according to a news release from the
California State Water Resources Control Board. The license
surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four
PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in
On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on
Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the
newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee. The
chair is the result of a long career championing environmental
protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest
that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which
clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking
an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel
betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move
mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western
water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the
1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump
administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado
River drought management plans… And it has been the
administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President
Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California
farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project
California says it doesn’t want.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the
last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency
Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the
badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the
clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal
official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there
approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours
to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California
agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a
last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of
drought and water shortages that is threatening their future.
With an official water emergency declaration now possible,
farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less
water and survive. Third in a series.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a drought contingency plan Thursday
afternoon, six hours ahead of the deadline set by a key federal
official for the state to act or face having its Colorado River
water supply determined by her.That came despite objections
from some legislators who questioned why the state will allow
Pinal County farmers to once again pump groundwater for their
crops and will also provide cash to help them do it.
Warnings of doomsday on the river are nothing new. Too many
people, farms and factories depend on too little water, which
is why the Colorado now rarely flows to its end point at the
Gulf of California. The sprawling Southwest has sucked the
river dry. Yet the region has thrived in spite of the
naysayers. Until now, it appears.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts
are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to
relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a
large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the
California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to
take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to
remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean?
Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the
history of the river’s development; negotiations over division
of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and
a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that
stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. The tribe’s
right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more
than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada.
By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if
CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the
change would free up a large volume of water that would be
highly desirable for cities and industries.
A federal appellate court decision issued on January 25, 2019
will affect the relicensing of hydroelectric dams on the
Klamath River and efforts to accomplish dam removal under an
existing settlement agreement.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water
source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few
days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of
overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If
California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched
interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption
by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and
decide the river’s future.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now
hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to
levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the
river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but
after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines
parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement,
the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal
buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
Federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman has drawn a line
in the sand for Arizona and other Western states: Finish a deal
to take less water from the Colorado River by Thursday, or the
federal government will be forced to step in and decide how to
prevent reservoirs from falling to critical levels. … The
plan’s success or failure will turn on the actions of a
few key players, including leaders of the Legislature, tribes,
farmers, cities and the state’s water managers.
Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks and the Wiyot Tribe are
currently working to finish the paperwork needed to officially
transfer ownership of the land back to the tribe. It’s a move
without precedent across the nation, according to numerous
experts consulted for this story, all of whom said that while
there have been instances of the federal government, nonprofits
and private entities returning land to tribes, Eureka appears
to be the first local municipality to have ever taken such a
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time
to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a
blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely
shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of
moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem
overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance
of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the
drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will
undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers
is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will
protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have
been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But
attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian
Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the
water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake
Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially
useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland
once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to
bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries
to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may
have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated
Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named
Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has
nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served
as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that
the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all
of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the
transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an
infusion of water from northern California.
Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes will vote Saturday,
Jan. 19 on a proposed ordinance to allow for the lease of a
portion of the Tribes’ Colorado River water allocation to
outside interests. The issue of leasing Tribal water
rights has become a contentious issue among Tribal members.
Opponents claim this compromises the Tribes’ resources, while
supporters point to the economic benefits.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River
drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water
management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic
they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa
Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to
officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water
interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech
Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a
drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal
intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of
urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor
told the business community Friday in previewing the speech
that kicks off the legislative session.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal
three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still
grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the
way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues,
some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’
concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up
funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to
pump more groundwater.
The two-week-old shutdown has halted one of the federal
government’s most important public health activities, the
inspections of chemical factories, power plants, oil
refineries, water treatment plants, and thousands of other
industrial sites for pollution violations.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and
commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the
marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial
fleet. A new environmental document predicts the level of
sediment released as a result of dam removal will be similar to
what the river carries downstream during an average year.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
An arbiter has sided with five local tribes in a dispute over
what [San Diego] county water officials argued was a request
that left them with an unexpected $2.1 million budget deficit
after the tribes won back lost water rights.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought
contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now,
they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job,
the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a
reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin
recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
Due to rising average temperatures, snowpacks in the Great
Basin appear to be transitioning from seasonal, with a
predictable amount and melt rate, to “ephemeral,” or
short-lived, which are less predictable and only last up to 60
days. “We might not get as much water into the ground, throwing
off the timing of water for plant root systems, reducing our
supply and use, and even affecting businesses such as tourism,”
says lead researcher Rose Petersky.
On stage in a conference room at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace,
Keith Moses said coming to terms with the limits of the
Colorado River is like losing a loved one. “It reminds me of
the seven stages of grief,” Moses said. “Because I think we’ve
been in denial for a long time.” Moses is vice chairman of the
Colorado River Indian Tribes, a group of four tribes near
The head of the federal agency controlling the Colorado River
said Thursday the U.S. government will impose unprecedented
restrictions on water supplies to the seven Southwestern U.S.
states that depend on the river unless everyone agrees by Jan.
31 on a plan to deal with an expected shortage in 2020.
After more a year of obstacles, the federal government will
resume a project to fulfill an 80-year-old promise. The Trump
administration halted work in October 2017 on a plan to build a
village for tribal members who fished the Columbia River for
millennia, but last week, money reappeared in the budget.
The Hopi Tribe cannot claim special damage on land controlled
by the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, the Arizona Supreme Court
ruled Thursday, all but ending an eight-year legal battle
and ensuring the ski area can continue using machine-made snow
on the state’s most popular slopes. The Hopi Tribe’s
lawsuit was originally about the machine-made snow. Its
complaint alleged that Snowbowl’s use of treated
wastewater to make the snow damaged the San Francisco Peaks,
which the tribe considers sacred.
After more a year of obstacles, the federal government will
resume a project to fulfill an 80-year-old promise. The Trump
administration halted work in October 2017 on a plan to build a
village for tribal members who fished the Columbia River for
millennia, but last week, money reappeared in the budget.
… Starting with the Bonneville Dam in the 1930s, the
federal government flooded villages where tribal members
“Fish are very important to me, to my family, my culture.”
“It’s surprising how much you rely on traditional foods if
you’re in a community like we are. You don’t necessarily
realize it until you don’t have it . . . especially salmon.”
“If the water quality got better, rivers and creeks would be
much better and it would bring back the fish.” These are the
voices of youth from the Karuk tribe in the Klamath River
watershed, as heard in a new video that explores the
connections between ecosystem health and tribal well-being.
The Klamath Tribes on Thursday announced they have withdrawn a
lawsuit regarding lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake against the
Bureau of Reclamation. The lawsuit was awaiting a court date in
Portland, after being moved from a federal court in San
Francisco court in July by U.S. District Judge William Orrick.
The Klamath Tribes have dismissed a pending lawsuit against a
federal agency over several endangered fish species in the
Upper Klamath Lake, but the tribes maintain the agency’s
actions have brought the fish close to extinction.
Department of Interior official Alan Mikkelsen — who spent the
week in Klamath Falls and Medford — said he will return to the
Basin next month to continue water talks, but that he has no
plans to reach out to the Klamath Tribes based on their last
interaction. Mikkelsen, senior adviser to Secretary of the
Interior Ryan Zinke on water and western resources, said he’s
met with a group of stakeholders at the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) office in Medford on Monday for what he calls
a “coalition of the willing.”
As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage
conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the
river’s water belongs to Native American tribes? Increasingly,
tribes are pressing to have the importance of their water
rights recognized and seeking the means to use them. An
impending tribal water study should shed light on the issue as
questions are raised about how to sustainably share water in an
already overallocated Colorado River Basin.
As the Colorado River Basin becomes
drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains:
How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?
Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and
its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it
to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full
federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights
claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights
to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $26.6
million in funding to 87 tribes in California to invest in
environmental programs and water infrastructure. EPA made the
announcement at the Pacific Southwest Region’s 26th Annual
Tribal/EPA Conference held in San Francisco this week, hosted
by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians. “This vital funding
helps tribes provide safe drinking water to their communities
and maintain important environmental programs,” said EPA
Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker.
Open space and views were plentiful Saturday morning for
visitors to Tolay Lake Regional Park, Sonoma County’s newest,
and largest regional park, at 3,400 acres. For the first time,
without any supervision, visitors were allowed free rein to
traverse miles of trail, offering views of San Pablo Bay and
much of southern Sonoma County.
With a deadline approaching for Arizona to finish a deal that
would divvy up cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries, the
state’s cities, tribes and agricultural irrigation districts
are entering what should be the final stretch of negotiations.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mission
Springs Water District are exploring new ways to collaborate on
water management and conservation issues, a partnership that
comes as both entities are locked in separate lawsuits with the
Coachella Valley’s two other water agencies.
For generations, it was simply known as “the river” — or
“wenot” in the local dialect — for its healing minerals and
voluminous size. No other local waterway carried as special a
title. “We had therapeutic water here. That no longer exists,”
says Matthew Teutimez, member of the Kizh-Gabrieleño Nation,
one of several tribes indigenous to the Los Angeles region.
“The creator put it here to help heal our bodies.”
A Native American tribe in southern Arizona has finally lifted
an evacuation notice two weeks after heavy rainfall threatened
a 22-foot-high (6.70 meters) earthen dam and forced some people
to leave their homes.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe is suing federal agencies for allegedly
failing to reduce the numbers of endangered Coho salmon killed
by fisheries in the Pacific Ocean, the tribe announced
Wednesday. “Hoopa is making every effort to recover Coho salmon
with this lawsuit,” said Vivienna Orcutt, a Hoopa tribal
Crow Indian leaders blamed U.S. officials for “gross
mismanagement” of tribal money after investigators said the
Montana tribe couldn’t account for almost $13 million intended
for water system improvements.
A dam on the Tohono O’odham Nation is expected to overflow and
could fail due to heavy rain and flooding from remnants of
Tropical Storm Rosa, authorities said Tuesday night. The status
of the dam remained unchanged on Wednesday morning, weather
The event, called Run4Salmon, is part of the [Winnemem Wintu]
tribe’s plans to change the course of history for endangered
Chinook, once plentiful in this part of the world. …
[Winnemem Chief Caleen] Sisk says heightening Shasta Dam would
further harm salmon and flood ancestral land. She advocates for
the construction of new swim-ways to bypass the dam to allow
salmon to spawn above it.
The giant Douglas fir hit the water with a great splash just as
a powerful gust of wind from the Chinook helicopter rotors blew
across the river…. The charred trunk, weighing as much
as 25,000 pounds, was one of 300 fire-damaged trees that the
[Yurok Indian] tribe and its partners strategically placed in
the South Fork of the Trinity River this past week in an
attempt to alter the current, scour out accumulated sediment
and restore long-lost salmon habitat in the river.