Pocatello, ID – In response to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) August 16, 2022 announcement of limited cuts in water use from the Colorado River System, BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) reiterates the importance of taking meaningful action now. On August 10, BRC announced its Path to 3588’ plan, which identifies water management strategies to stabilize Lake Powell and Lake Mead and raise the lake levels of both reservoirs. As the plan makes clear, action is needed now, and 2023 will be the most crucial year for making a substantive change in the right direction. Delaying meaningful action will tie the Bureau of Reclamation’s hands in future years, and more to the point, will threaten the viability of providing water, power and recreational opportunities, all critical to the economic outlook of the West.
The BOR report does announce cuts for Arizona and Nevada that are consistent with the 2007 Interim Guidelines. These “business-as-usual” cuts will do little to prevent dropping lake levels in either reservoir. BOR’s plan to release 7.0 million acre feet of water from Lake Powell in Water Year 2023 is also business as usual. But BRC appreciates that BOR is contemplating the possibility of limiting releases below 7.0 maf to protect critical infrastructure. While Arizona and Nevada are currently facing the largest immediate cuts in water allocation, BRC’s Path to 3588’ plan is built on the guiding principle that all cuts in use must be spread proportionally across all the states in the basin to be politically feasible.
BRC strongly believes maintaining both Lake Powell and Lake Mead as viable reservoirs is critically important, and we reject any plan that suggests draining Lake Powell. For this reason, BRC is disappointed to see BOR proposing to study modifications to Glen Canyon Dam to allow for ongoing use of bypass tubes, unless this can be shown to be critical to maintaining ongoing operations associated with Lake Powell. With viable plans for stabilizing the reservoirs and raising the lake levels, BOR should allocate its limited resources to utilizing its authority to meet the water needs of the Colorado River Basin states.
“After Commissioner Touton suggested in June that bigger cuts were coming, it is likely that there was a sense of relief after yesterday’s announcement,” BRC Executive Director, Ben Burr said. “However, the decisions down the road get substantially harder if all states in the basin don’t voluntarily start adapting now to the current reality. Our Path to 3588’ plan is one of the few plans out there that recognizes an equitable path forward for states and tribes.”