67°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Colorado River deemed threatened

The lower Colorado is the most-threatened river in America, a conservation advocacy group said in its annual report published this month.

The nonprofit American Rivers had placed the entire Colorado River and upper river atop its list of “most-endangered rivers” in previous years. But this is the first time the lower Colorado, which supplies Las Vegas with 90 percent of its water via Lake Mead, has been designated as in danger.

“The main criteria we use is whether there’s a key decision point in the year,” said Amy Kober, a spokeswoman for the group. In the case of the lower Colorado, much of the impact could come from President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would cut funds to the Department of Agriculture’s regional conservation partnership program and the Department of the Interior’s Water- Smart program, she said.

Trump also has issued an executive order that would eliminate a 2015 water rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which asserted federal power over small waterways like wetlands and streams for the purposes of controlling pollution under the Clean Water Act. The order had no immediate impact but could eventually lead to the rule’s repeal.

A ‘political arrow’

The lower Colorado, which provides drinking water for 30 million Americans, including residents of Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix, and irrigates fields that grow 90 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables, is particularly vulnerable to such actions, the group said. The water demands of Arizona, Nevada and California are outstripping supply, climate change’s effects are becoming acute, and the river is at a breaking point, it said.

But Patricia Mulroy, who has worked within the international water community for 25 years, expressed frustration that the river is being used as a “political arrow” to score public relations points.

“There was obviously a lot of emotion in this,” Mulroy, former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said of the river’s appearance atop the list. “It has now created an atmosphere where it will be harder, not easier, to forge the agreements that need to be forged this year on the river.”

Mulroy was referring to a 2012 agreement on the Colorado River between the U.S. and Mexico set to expire at year’s end and continuing negotiations on a drought contingency plan among Nevada, California and Arizona to keep Lake Mead from shrinking enough to trigger the first federal shortage declaration. That would force Nevada, which receives most of its water from the Colorado, and especially Arizona to slash use of river water.

‘Water cuts across party lines’

“Those agreements have to be entered into,” Mulroy said.

Despite the political rhetoric, Bronson Mack, a Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman, said the agency expects the agreements will get done.

“Water cuts across party lines,” Mack said.

Even if water levels do reach shortage territory, Mack said, Nevada residents won’t go without water.

“Should Lake Mead get to that severe of an elevation, Nevada has taken steps to ensure that we would be able to access that supply,” he said.

Contact Brooke Wanser at bwanser@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Bwanser_LVRJ on Twitter.

Other at-risk waterways

American Rivers is a nonprofit organization aimed at river conservation efforts. Located in Washington, D.C., the group has compiled a list of the nation’s “most-endangered rivers” since 2003.

While the Colorado River has made the list before, this is the first year the lower Colorado has been named.

The other rivers on this year’s list, and the threats they face, are:

#2: Bear River (California) Threat: New Dam

#3: South Fork Skykomish (Washington) Threat: New hydropower project

#4: Mobile Bay rivers (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) Threat: Poor water management

#5: Rappahannock River (Virginia) Threat: Fracking

#6: Green-Toutle River (Washington) Threat: New mine

#7: Neuse and Cape Fear rivers (North Carolina) Threat: Pollution from hog and chicken farms

#8: Middle Fork Flathead River (Montana) Threat: Oil transport by rail

#9: Buffalo National River (Arkansas) Threat: Pollution from massive hog farm

#10: Menominee River (Michigan, Wisconsin) Threat: Open pit sulfide mining

Source: AmericanRivers.org

THE LATEST
Former fire chief Gray discusses termination

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for the city, and specifically the fire department, as questions of whether or not Will Gray was still employed as that department’s chief spread through town.

Breeding proposal breeds opposition

Judging by the number of people speaking out against it during public comment at the last city council meeting and the tone of numerous social media posts, the proposal to allow for licensed pet breeders to operate in Boulder City is itself breeding a growing opposition. And the opposition appears to be spilling over into other pet-centric issues, including the fact that, unlike anywhere else in Clark County, Boulder City does not require dogs to be on a leash in public.

Wanted: A good home for theater seats

For those who have either grown up in Boulder City or are longtime residents, the Boulder City Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Hangars and OHVs and pool people, oh my

In a meeting with only two council members present in the room (and the other three on the phone) and in which the major attention was divided between a contentious possible law concerning pets and the fact that the city manager had announced he was leaving for a new job on the East Coast, the council did take a series of other notable actions.

Look, up in the sky…

Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

Council hears plan for golf course turf reduction

Reducing water usage in Southern Nevada has been a subject that has affected the look of clean, green Boulder City multiple times in the past year.

City confirms fire chief no longer employed

After more than two weeks of inquiries by the Boulder City Review, late Tuesday afternoon the city confirmed that Boulder City Fire Chief Will Gray is no longer employed.

Residents weigh in on 99 Cents Store’s shuttering

In what came as a surprise to many who are frequent shoppers, officials from 99 Cents Only Stores announced last week that all of their 371 locations will be closing over the next several weeks.

Four suspects arrested in graffiti case

On Jan. 22, many residents were shocked by a rash of graffiti throughout town, which included the historic Boulder City Theatre.