Department of the Interior launches major action to protect Colorado’s river system

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Date: Friday, October 28, 2022
Contact: [email protected]

WASHINGTON – As collaborative work continues in the Colorado River Basin to address the ongoing drought crisis, the Department of the Interior today announced accelerated steps to prepare new measures that, based on current and projected hydrologic conditions are necessary to enhance and protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado river system. To address the severe operational realities facing the system, the Bureau of Reclamation is initiating an additional expedited process to revise the current Interim Operational Guidelines for the operation of Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams in 2023 and 2024 to provide alternatives and additional measures needed. to address the likelihood of continued low runoff conditions throughout the basin.

“The Home Office continues to pursue a collaborative and consensus-based approach to addressing the drought crisis afflicting the West. At the same time, we are committed to taking the swift and decisive action necessary to protect the system of the Colorado River and all who depend on it,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The revision of the current interim operating guidelines for Glen Canyon and the Hoover Dams represents one of many critical departmental efforts underway to better protect the system in light of rapidly changing conditions in the basin.”

Reclamation will publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which will include proposed alternatives to revise the December 2007 Record of Decision associated with the Colorado River Interim Guidelines. The 2007 Interim Guidelines provide operating criteria for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, including provisions designed to provide a greater degree of certainty to water users about the timing and volumes of potential reductions in water content. water supply for lower basin states, and additional operating flexibility to conserve and store water in the system.

The NOI points out that in order to ensure that Glen Canyon Dam continues to operate according to its intended design, Reclamation may need to modify current operations and reduce discharges downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, which will impact downstream riparian areas and reservoir elevations at Lake Mead. Additionally, in order to protect Hoover Dam operations, system integrity, and public health and safety, Reclamation may also need to modify current operations and reduce discharges downstream of Hoover Dam.

“We are now taking immediate action to revise operating guidelines to protect the Colorado River system and stabilize the rapidly declining reservoir storage elevations,” said Compensation commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Today’s action brings new ideas and needed actions to the table as we consider alternatives to revise operations to better protect the Colorado River system in the near term while continuing to develop sustainable plans. term that reflect the climate-related realities facing the Colorado River Basin.

As described in the NOI, this SEIS will analyze alternatives, including:

  • Framework Agreement Alternative: This alternative would be developed as a set of additional consensus-based actions that would build on the existing framework for Colorado River operations. This alternative would build on the covenants and obligations developed by basin states, tribes and non-governmental organizations under the Colorado River Drought Response Plan (DCP) Authorization Act. 2019.
  • Reservoir Operations Modification Alternative: This alternative would be developed by Reclamation as a set of actions and measures taken pursuant to the authority of the Secretariat under applicable federal law. This alternative would also consider how the Secretary’s authority might complement a consensus-based alternative that may not sufficiently mitigate current and projected risks to reservoirs in the Colorado River System.
  • No Action: The alternative to no action will describe the continued implementation of existing agreements that control the operations of Glen Canyon and the Hoover Dams. These include the interim guidelines of 2007 and the agreements adopted pursuant to the DCP of 2019. Intensive ongoing efforts to achieve water conservation actions in the basin are underway through a number of programs including the recent Inflation Reduction Act. The implementation and effectiveness of these efforts will inform the evaluation of existing operations and agreements.

The action announced today builds on the milestones announced in August 2022 as part of Reclamation’s release of the August 2022 Colorado River Basin 24-Month Study, as well as additional actions announced in September 2022 to reduce water consumption in the basin in light of an extremely low water level. disastrous hydrological supplies and projections.

The Ministry also recently announced new funding opportunities for drought mitigation to provide reliable, sustainable and equitable water and electricity supplies across the basin. A new Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, funded by an initial allocation through the Reducing Inflation Act, will help increase water conservation, improve the water efficiency and to prevent the system’s reservoirs from falling to extremely low altitudes that would threaten water deliveries. and electricity generation. The Cut Inflation Act includes $4 billion in funding specifically for water management and conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other areas experiencing similar levels of drought.

The NOI announced today to address immediate challenges does not interfere with the separate Reclamation process to determine Colorado River operations after 2026.

Members of the public interested in providing comments on the SEIS may do so until December 20, 2022, in accordance with the instructions of the Federal Register which will be published in the next few days.

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