Arizona senator calls for Salton Sea funding to be halted for use of California’s Colorado River

By JONATHAN J. COOPER AND KATHLEEN RONAYNE

PHOENIX (AP) — California communities exposed to dangerous dust from a dry lake bed have found themselves at the center of tensions between Arizona and California over how to conserve water along the overloaded Colorado River.

U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, a re-election Democrat from Arizona, wants the federal government to withhold money for the environmental cleanup of the Salton Sea until California agrees to use less from its part of the river. He also blamed the US Bureau of Reclamation for not knowing when and how it will act if the seven western states that depend on the river fail to drastically reduce their use.

“We’re out of time,” Kelly wrote Tuesday in a letter to the US Department of the Interior. “The longer the Department waits to push for an agreement … the harder this crisis will be to resolve, only leading to more difficult choices and litigation.”

In June, federal officials said states needed to drastically reduce their use because major reservoirs risked sinking so low they could no longer generate hydroelectricity or supply water users. But states passed the August deadline without a plan. Congress has spent up to $4 billion in part to pay farmers and cities to use less water, but its impact remains unclear.

Departure: House passes bill that could see $250m for Salton Sea projects

Much attention is paid to California, the greatest holder of the river’s water and the last to lose in times of scarcity. State users recently said they would reduce usage by up to 9% depending on federal money and a plan to clean up toxic dust around the Salton Sea.

The lake was formed in 1905 when the river overflowedd and is fed chiefly by runoff from farms in southeastern California. As it dries, the wind raises particles that deteriorate the air quality. When farms use less river water, fewer excess flows flow into the sea.

California officials and the Alianza Coachella Valley community group were surprised by Kelly’s letter. They said it was unfair to use communities exposed to environmental damage as bargaining chips.

“The Colorado River system is in crisis, what we need is less finger pointing and more water conservation,” said Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Agency of Natural Resources.

by Kelly letter comes amid a tough re-election bid against Republican Blake Masters, a contest that will help determine control of the US Senate.

As farmers and cities across the West face dwindling water supplies, concern over Arizona’s future access to water has become a major issue, especially in cities. like Phoenix and Tucson.

Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado, Tribes, and Mexico also hold river water rights. It helps provide drinking water to around 40 million people as well as countless farms that grow vegetables and crops for the nation.

The latest federal projections show that the Lake Powell Dam – a critical reservoir on the Arizona-Utah border – will not be able to generate power by the end of next year if rains and falls of snow are minimal.

Already, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico have suffered mandatory supply cuts. California would eventually be included in these cuts if Lake Powell and Lake Mead continue to decline as expected.

As farmers and cities across the West face dwindling water supplies, concern over Arizona’s future access to water has become a major issue, especially in cities. like Phoenix and Tucson.

Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado, Tribes, and Mexico also hold river water rights. It helps provide drinking water to around 40 million people as well as countless farms that grow vegetables and crops for the nation.

The latest federal projections show that the Lake Powell Dam – a critical reservoir on the Arizona-Utah border – will not be able to generate power by the end of next year if rains and falls of snow are minimal.

Already, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico have suffered mandatory supply cuts. California would eventually be included in these cuts if Lake Powell and Lake Mead continue to decline as expected.

“I’m not going to let California get away with this,” Kelly said after a campaign stop in Phoenix. “You can’t hold the Colorado River hostage with funding for something else. It doesn’t matter what it is. I mean, this is water we’re talking about.

Kelly also wants clarification on when California will be restricted in taking the water it stores in the lake.

The Department of the Interior declined to comment on Kelly’s letter, spokesman Tyler Cherry said.

Masters, Kelly’s Republican rival, is calling for an even more aggressive confrontation with California, saying during a recent debate, “we can solve this problem with technology and sharp elbows.”

“Why is California even putting its straw in the Colorado River?” Masters said, suggesting the state should instead remove salt from seawater to increase its supply.

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Ronayne reported from Sacramento, Calif. Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Ariz., contributed.

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News Channel 3 and presenter Angela Chen has been covering issues surrounding the Salton Sea for years, including the environmental and health aspects of the impending environmental disaster.

Experience Emmy Award-winning Troubled Waters: The Salton Sea Project

  • Part 1: Paradise Lost – Angela revisits the history of the Salton Sea. Learn about its connection to Spanish explorers and how it went from being one of the most popular destinations to being abandoned and on the brink of disaster

  • Part 3: A languishing lake – Angela looks at the millions spent over the years to save the Salton Sea and why there is so little progress to show for it

Part 4: Advocating the Salton Sea – There are huge environmental problems at Salton Sea, but after decades of neglect, could the lake’s unique location be part of the solution to saving it? Angela sheds light on the movement underway to save the lake

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