#ColoradoRiver: The Lower Basin #Drought Contingency plan sails through both chambers of the #AZleg #lbdcp #COriver #aridification

A raft coming out of Cataract Canyon into upper Lake Powell encounters the bathtub ring left by the receding reservoir. As Lake Powell, and Lake Mead, continue to see less and less water, it’s prompting water managers, including those at the Colorado River District, to coordinate on ways to send more water downstream. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

From The Arizona Republic (Dustin Gardiner, Andrew Nicla and Ian James):

Arizona lawmakers passed a historic Colorado River drought deal Thursday afternoon, about seven hours before a midnight deadline set by the federal government.

Gov. Doug Ducey promptly signed the legislation, clearing the way for Arizona to join in the three-state Drought Contingency Plan together with California and Nevada.

“There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that Arizona is prepared for a drier water future,” Ducey said as he signed. A crowd of policy advisers and lawmakers applauded in the old state Capitol building…

The hours of rushed work by Arizona lawmakers could still be overshadowed, as a California irrigation district’s demands threaten to delay efforts to finish the Drought Contingency Plan, which aims to protect levels in Lake Mead…

The hours of rushed work by Arizona lawmakers could still be overshadowed, as a California irrigation district’s demands threaten to delay efforts to finish the Drought Contingency Plan, which aims to protect levels in Lake Mead…

“Today is also a historic day,” Ducey said. “We’re not going to wait 40 years for the next thing that’s going to happen on water. We’re going to continue it in this legislative session in terms of discussion and action.”

He signed an executive order to create a new water-conservation council that will recommend ideas to reduce the state’s use and prepare for future shortages…

Senators voted 27-3 to approve a package of bills that would make possible Arizona’s participation, together with California and Nevada, in the Lower Basin plan, which lays out plans for the states to share in water cutbacks between 2020 and 2026.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives voted 59-0, with one abstention, to pass the deal about 5 p.m. Thursday…

Senators voted 27-3 to approve a package of bills that would make possible Arizona’s participation, together with California and Nevada, in the Lower Basin plan, which lays out plans for the states to share in water cutbacks between 2020 and 2026.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives voted 59-0, with one abstention, to pass the deal about 5 p.m. Thursday.

The American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to farms in California’s Imperial Valley. Photo credit: Adam Dubrowa, FEMA/Wikipedia.

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Janet Wilson):

California’s Imperial Irrigation District and two others here 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.

Officials there were in “intense negotiations and discussions” with U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California partners, an IID official and another with the state river board said. The district is also awaiting a meeting with USDA Secretary Purdue after talks with his staff about a Jan. 17 written request they sent him for the hefty federal funding to help restore the sea, and to help cope with further reductions of Colorado River imports…

Board President Erik Ortega said, “This isn’t an either/or proposition for IID; it is instead an honest effort by the district to improve the sustainability of the Salton Sea and to ensure the viability of the DCP (drought contingency plan).”

In its statement, IID said the $200 million pledge it requested “would represent a firm commitment to the environment, public health, water supply reliability, the agricultural industry and the future resiliency of the Colorado River.”

[…]

IID was forced in an earlier federal-state agreement to start sending some of its supply to urban San Diego and the Coachella Valley, diverting it from farmlands and the Salton Sea. The sea, actually California’s largest lake, has historically been a critical stop for millions of migratory birds on the North American flyway. It also sits in the middle of an arid desert.

Without the critical inflow from Colorado River water, the lake is now rapidly shrinking, potentially unleashing a major public health crisis. As its dry, cakey playa shoreline expands, experts say winds will whip up increasing amounts of dust and send it across much of Riverside County, potentially endangering children with asthma and others…

The Coachella Valley and Palo Verde water district boards approved elements of the plan, but also reserved the right to sign the final agreements after all the details have been hammered out.

Las Vegas Lake Mead intake schematic, courtesy SNWA.

From The Las Vegas Review Journal (Henry Brean):

Arizona would give up 192,000 acre-feet of water and Nevada would give up 8,000 acre-feet under the first round of annual cuts, set to kick in Jan. 1. California would join in the reductions, surrendering 200,000 acre-feet of water a year, should Lake Mead shrink another 41 feet from where it is now…

Congress still needs to pass federal legislation ratifying portions of the interstate deal, and California’s little-known but powerful Imperial Irrigation District has yet to give its final blessing.

The agricultural district is the single largest water user on the Colorado, with senior rights to more than 10 times as much river water as Nevada gets each year. Board members for the district gave conditional approval to the drought contingency plan in December, so long as the final package includes federal funding to stabilize the Salton Sea and stave off a looming environmental disaster in the California desert…

The series of escalating cuts by Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico could eventually total more than 1.37 million acre-feet a year, but they won’t immediately halt Lake Mead’s decline. Only Mother Nature can do that, said Colby Pellegrino, director of water resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“(The Drought Contingency Plan) is designed to keep the system from failing” by stabilizing Lake Mead,” Pellegrino said. “That stabilization might occur lower down than Lake Mead is today.”

Next up for water managers on the river: More long and painful negotiations. Starting in 2020, the seven states will begin renegotiating the current operating guidelines for the Colorado and its two largest reservoirs. Those rules were adopted in 2007 and are set to expire in 2026.

If nothing else, Pellegrino said, the talks that led to the drought contingency plan have set the stage for the next round of water wrangling.

Panorama of the Hualapai Mountains taken from Kingman in December 2009. Photo credit Wikimedia.

Here’s the release from the Arizona Water Coalition (Michael Pauker):

The plan’s passage represents a major step toward security for the state’s water supply

The Water for Arizona Coalition today commended state lawmakers for voting to approve the state’s Drought Contingency Plan (DCP).

“Today, Arizona lawmakers made clear that they are willing to do what it takes to protect our water supply, even when that means making difficult compromises,” said ​Kim Mitchell​, ​Senior Water Policy Advisor at Western Resource Advocates​, “The passage of this plan will help Arizona prepare for a drier future while safeguarding our state’s vital water resources and lessening the impact to water users. We commend Governor Ducey, Arizona legislators, water managers, and stakeholders for all they have done to get our state’s plan over the finish line.”

“By passing DCP, the Arizona legislature has reduced the risk to the Colorado River, and taken a major step toward protecting people and critical habitat for birds and other wildlife,” said ​Sonia Perillo, Audubon Arizona’s Executive Director​, “We still face challenges​, including the ​likelihood of a water shortage in the near future, but this plan helps ensure that Arizona can prepare, and protect our communities and ecosystems.”

“It is increasingly likely that a decline in Lake Mead’s elevation will trigger a shortage declaration in the years ahead. Having a Drought Contingency Plan in place helps make sure that such a shortage, and the water cutbacks that will follow it, do not disrupt our economy and cause more pain than they need to,” said ​Kevin Moran, Senior Director for the Colorado River Program at Environmental Defense Fund and Chair of the Water for Arizona Coalition.​ ​“This plan conserves more water in Lake Mead through a mix of mechanisms and incentives to reduce water demand, including system conservation projects and water trading among cities, tribes and irrigation districts. I commend our legislature and Governor Ducey for recognizing the urgent need for conservation and other actions to protect ​the health of the Colorado River system that supports cities, farms and ranches, industry, tribal communities, wildlife, and recreation in the region.”

“Arizona’s climate is growing warmer and drier each year. Understanding that reality is what spurred so many diverse interests to compromise through the Drought Contingency Planning process,” said ​Jeff Odefey, American Rivers’ Director of Clean Water Supply.​ “This arduous process led to compromise and collaboration. As a result – Arizona’s communities and environment have a plan that is the first step toward a more secure water future.”

“Arizona’s business community knows that future prosperity depends on having a predictable water supply. That’s exactly what the Drought Contingency Plan ensures​—​that we’re ready with a plan when we need it,” said ​Todd Reeve​,​ D​ irector at ​Business for Water Stewardship​, “Lawmakers’ decision to pass the plan shows that they are serious about protecting our economy.”

About the Water for Arizona Coalition

The Water for Arizona Coalition comprises Arizonans who support policies and innovative practices to ensure a reliable water supply to meet the state’s needs. Organizational support is provided by solution-oriented groups like Business for Water Stewardship, American Rivers, Audubon Arizona, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and Western Resource Advocates, which collectively have over 60,000 Arizona members, as well as hundreds of hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreators across the state. Kevin Moran, a long-time Arizonan and former government relations consultant, is the Chairman of the Coalition.

http://www.waterforarizona.com

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