Click the link to read the article on The Aspen Times website (John LaConte). Here’s an excerpt:
When the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday, Western legislators breathed a sigh of relief after feeling victorious in an effort to see funding included for the Bureau of Reclamation to combat drought in the Colorado River Basin. U.S. Senators Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., announced the agreement, which could see billions go toward “voluntary system conservation projects that achieve verifiable reductions in use of or demand for water supplies or provide environmental benefits in the Lower Basin or Upper Basin of the Colorado River,” over the next few years, according to the bill text.
The announcement comes amid one of the hottest summers on record for the Colorado River, which saw temperatures hit 75 degrees Fahrenheit near Dotsero in July. That’s a full 5 degrees higher than the temperatures deemed safe for fishing, and full-day voluntary fishing restrictions were placed on the river in Eagle County.
Andrew Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood, also testified at the hearing, telling the committee that the flows of the Colorado River have been 20% below average over the last 22 years….an original draft of the bill did not contain any money to combat drought in the Colorado River Basin. Bennet started advocating for drought money to be added to the bill, a source close to the negotiations told the Vail Daily, and found support from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., along with Kelly and Cortez Masto. The result is a $4 billion package that will flow through states and public entities like water conservation districts and tribes in an attempt to enact both short-term and long-term solutions for drought in the West.
In the past, similar efforts have allowed conservation groups like Trout Unlimited to access funds for habitat work through the Bureau of Reclamation, and the climate bill passed by the Senate on Sunday also calls for funds to be used for “ecosystem and habitat restoration projects to address issues directly caused by drought in a river basin or inland water body.”