Colorado Riverkeeper, John Weisheit, drafted detailed scoping comments submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation on August 17, 2023 as a part of that agency’s NEPA review of its Post 2026 Operational Guidelines for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. These comments were joined by Waterkeeper Alliance, and five Waterkeeper groups, as well as other organizations.
These well-researched and documented comments clearly highlight the overarching challenge being faced by the Colorado River Basin (CRB), a water supply system that serves more than 40 million people in 7 states, 2 countries and 30 Native American tribes.
“We note there is a growing imbalance between human demands and the natural supply, which is stressed by the acceleration of climate disruptions. There is a real risk of catastrophic collapse and system failure in the CRB in the near-future.”
These comments take clear positions on the scope of the review that the Bureau should undertake, the alternatives that must be considered in the Environmental Impact Statement it will prepare (including the alternative of de-commissioning and/or bypassing the Glen Canyon dam), and the inclusiveness of the NEPA process (including incorporating tribal knowledge and wisdom, addressing climate change issues, and giving serious consideration to the growing body of scientific research).
In their concluding section, the scoping comments highlight the critical issues that must be addressed by the Bureau’s EIS:
“The need and purpose of this EIS is to reduce consumption significantly, and better prepare our communities, ecosystems and cultural landscapes for a Colorado River System with significantly less water. There must be a legally compliant, basin-wide approach to reducing consumptive uses and prohibiting new diversions of the dwindling system . . . . Reclamation can no longer ignore the scholarship and the real-world signals demonstrating that 20th Century infrastructure is not prepared for 21st Century hydrology, which is rapidly changing as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change.”
The Bureau of Reclamation’s NEPA preparation of an EIS addressing its Post-2026 Operational Guidelines for the Colorado Basin Water Supply System will be a lengthy and detailed one. Waterkeeper Alliance is committed to remaining engaged with and supportive of the efforts of our Waterkeepers who are leading the way to ensure that this process will result in a viable, long term solution to the crisis that we are confronting and result in a more sustainable and resilient river.