State of the Rockies Project: Interior Secretary Salazar says develop but protect the environment at the same time


From the Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Salazar spoke during the State of the Rockies Project conference at Colorado College, where students have been studying how to preserve the Colorado River basin…

…climate change, drought and population growth in the West have heightened interest in how the states and Mexico can continue sharing the [Colorado] river and still support irrigation, hydropower, tourism, recreation, agricultural and municipal needs and wildlife. Salazar said the Colorado River Compact that outlines how seven Western states and Mexico will share the river system’s water was created without the best science or knowledge. The agreement wrongly assumed there was 2 million acre-feet more available than there really is, he said. Nevertheless, he said the compact will not be reopened. Within Salazar’s department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reviewing ideas for how to address a projected imbalance in Colorado River basin supply and demand.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Mexico continue to negotiate details of how to share the river. Salazar’s appearance Monday came the same day that 25 conservation groups delivered a petition urging the U.S. and Mexico to allow some flows to return to the dried-up delta where the Colorado River flows into the Gulf of California. Salazar said the U.S. and Mexico hope to announce results of the negotiations soon. He didn’t give a timetable.

More coverage from Debbie Kelley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

As President Obama’s appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the San Luis Valley native and 1977 CC graduate is familiar with the problems associated with what’s often called “the hardest-working river” in the nation. “The Colorado River is already a water-short river — more water has been allocated than what that river has today, not only along southern states but with the treaty with Mexico,” Salazar said during the 2012 State of the Rockies Project conference, which continues Tuesday. But Salazar assured the hundreds of conference attendees that his department is working on the issues and hopes to announce a new allocation agreement with Mexico soon.

The river is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement for general water allotments, which Salazar said overestimated by 2 million acre feet the annual amount of water that could be extracted from the river. In response to a question from the audience, Salazar said he doesn’t think the Compact will ever be opened up for negotiation: “The legacies that have been created over 89 years are so embedded in the Law of the River,” he said…

Salazar also seized on the connection between the dwindling water supply and the energy industry, deriding the push by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, for expanded oil shale development. “We need to let the world know how much water would be required to develop those oil shale resources — the estimates I’ve seen are over 1 million acre feet and some at 2 million,” Salazar said. “Where would that water come from? What’s going to be the consequences to the ranchers and farmers dependent on the Colorado River?”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Leave a Reply