Bill introduced to aid Colorado River
Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva has introduced a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide funding for programs designed to keep the Colorado River clean and the ecosystem pristine.
According to Grijalva, D-Ariz., the Lower Colorado River Protection Act of 2009 seeks to restore and maintain the ecosystems and water quality of the Colorado River, thus assuring the health of the millions of Americans who drink its water and eat food grown with its water, protecting the river basin's precious natural resources and ensuring the region's economic prosperity.
Grijalva said the bill will provide for the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for the prevention and elimination of pollution in the Lower Colorado River and the maintenance of a healthy Lower Colorado River ecosystem.
"The habitat along the Colorado River has been altered by dams, human interference and non-native plant and animal species," Grijalva said. "The effects of the massive population growth in the Southwest have threatened the Lower Colorado River. The bill will work to reduce the destruction to the river and thereby protect it from future damage."
According to figures supplied by Grijalva, the Colorado River supplies drinking water for more than 25 million people and irrigates over 80 percent of winter vegetables consumed in the United States. The Colorado River and its tributaries are home to many rare and unusual species, including 36 native fish species (not including two that have already gone extinct), of which 25 are found nowhere else.
Grijalva said preserving the water quality of the Lower Colorado River is essential to the health, economy, security and ecology of Arizona, Southern California and southern Nevada.
He said as the climate changes and the population of the region grows, the Lower Colorado River will come under increasing stress, adding that the Lower Colorado River Protection Act will safeguard the region's drinking water supply and protect its precious natural resources.
Natalie Luna Rose, Grijalva's press secretary, said the bill will allow everyone with a stake in the river to have a voice in what is done to protect it.
"There have been longtime issues concerning the limited resources of the Colorado River, and hopefully this bill will be able to float down those resources, because it is the lifeline of the West. This bill will create a program to monitor and design solutions for the ecosystem and water quality programs.
"It will involve the regional stake holders, including the cities, towns, counties, Indian tribes, companies and farmers who get their water from the river to create a plan to protect the Lower Colorado River."
According to the bill, the aforementioned entities will form a Lower Colorado River Management Conference (CRRSCo.) that will help develop the Lower Colorado River Pollution Elimination and Ecosystem Restoration Plan.
The bill allows two years from its time of passage for the CRRSCo. to develop such a plan.
The bill does not allow for the purchase of water for the purpose of flow regulation in the Lower Colorado River Basin.
"The program will work with local and state authorities as well as federal agencies," Luna Rose said. "It will provide support for the development of infrastructure for the water usage along the river, and with the implementation of this program, we hope to safeguard the drinking water supply. River communities are booming and we hope this will help them manage their resources."
Federal agencies involved if the bill passes will include the Environmental Protection Agency, Western Area Power Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Grijalva introduced this bill because it is fundamental to the health, economy security and ecology of Arizona, California and Nevada," Luna Rose said.
"The river affects millions of people, and even in faraway places, they rely on the water too. It is vital to the West."