Pocatello, ID – In response to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) April 11, 2023 Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for near-term operations in the Colorado River Basin that are necessitated by water shortages, BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) announces its support for the progress made by BOR. On August 10, 2022, 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.
Thousands of BRC supporters shared their support for this plan with BOR, and BOR recognized this plan in the SEIS but chose not to analyze the Path to 3588’ Plan as an official alternative. The BOR proposals do contain elements of the Path to 3588’, and BRC believes BOR is moving in the right direction with the lower release tier changes. Both alternatives will require graduated cutbacks based on lake levels ranging from 3575’ down to 3500’. While BRC would like to see the lake elevation of 3588’ as a trigger elevation level for cutbacks to protect the recreation interests on the lake, the Coordinated Reservoir Operations in the SEIS will ensure more flexible management to adapt to low water levels. BRC also strongly supports the creation of a Protection Level of 3500’. It is clear that BOR is not entertaining any notions to drain Lake Powell by committing to hold back water if lake levels reach 3500’.
The table below from the SEIS shows how the proposed lower release tier changes will function in the two alternatives BOR is analyzing:
The BRC Path to 3588’ plan is also based on the premise that any cuts in Colorado River allocations need to be shared proportionally between the states in the Colorado River Basin. The Draft SEIS includes an alternative that requires cuts to be shared proportionally between the lower basin states. While it is difficult for BOR to enforce cuts against upper basin states, BRC believes that any plan will be more effective if all states agree to proportional cutbacks.
“Our members are paying close attention to this issue, and we are encouraged to see the Bureau of Reclamation doubling down on their commitment to preserve Lake Powell and Lake Mead,” BRC Executive Director, Ben Burr said. “We look forward to scrutinizing the proposals and educating our members to continue providing feedback to the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure that all stakeholders in these reservoirs have a meaningful seat at the table.”
In 2022, BRC started the Fill Lake Powell project in an effort to ensure that the recreation industry that exists in relation to the Colorado River reservoirs is recognized in discussions about water management in the Colorado River Basin. More information on the Fill Lake Powell project can be found at https://filllakepowell.org