Arizona senator asks DOI to withhold Salton Sea funds | New

Amid ongoing drought negotiations between Colorado River Basin states, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly has urged the Department of the Interior (DOI) to outline what steps it can take to compel a basin-wide agreement that provides stability to the Colorado River system.

The Democrat, who negotiated and secured $4 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for drought mitigation, also called on the DOI to withhold federal funds for drought mitigation from the Salton Sea in California.

The Arizona legislator has called for withholding those funds until California commits to allocating additional water for long-term conservation.

In a letter sent to U.S. DOI Secretary Deb Haaland, Kelly also called on the DOI to examine water losses in California due to evaporation and the state’s reliance on excess water credits to meet its conservation objectives.

“Months later, with a deal still stalled, it’s clear Reclamation needs to indicate what steps it’s prepared to take and when to conserve more water,” Kelly said in a prepared statement.

“Recognizing Arizona’s significant efforts to protect Lake Mead and Lake Powell, and the role of our farmers as a year-round food source for our nation, I encourage the Department to present scenarios for reductions mandatory requirements, including accounting for evaporation losses from Colorado River contractors in California and tightening limits on California’s withdrawal of excess water it accumulates in Lake Mead,” he said. declared.

Kelly said he has continued to push the Biden administration to use every tool at its disposal to protect Arizona farmers, cities, tribes and businesses from the impacts of this historic western drought.

Kelly, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he secured historic investments to address western drought, improve the resilience of water, repair and modernize water infrastructure and protect sources of drinking water.

In response, Antonio Ortega, Director of Government Affairs and Communications for the Imperial Irrigation District, said, “The Salton Sea continues to decline due to existing water conservation actions in California and will decline further with conservation. which could increase the IID’s total retention to 24% of its annual fee”.

This will undoubtedly affect public health and the environment in disadvantaged communities that can ill afford the additional challenges, Ortega wrote in an email.

“Congress recognized the need to act quickly and included $4 billion in the Cut Inflation Act to fund drought mitigation projects that stabilize the Colorado River system,” Ortega said. . “This appropriation included funding for ecosystem and habitat restoration projects, such as those in the Salton Sea.”

The IID urges the Home Office to do what is best for the entire river system – stay the course and quickly appropriate these critical funds, the IID official said.

Imperial County spokesman Gilbert Rebollar did not respond to a request for comment by the press deadline.