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USBR Declares Arizona, California Drought Plans Not Finished

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Arizonans celebrated the completion of their Drought Contingency Plan yesterday, passed by the state legislature just hours before a deadline set by the federal government. But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says Arizona and California aren’t finished yet, and announced this morning it will step in. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

In a press conference today, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman praised the states’ efforts but said “close isn’t done.” She submitted a notice to the Federal Register asking the seven Colorado River Basin states to submit comments on how the Bureau should protect Lake Mead. If Arizona and California finish their plans before March 4, the call for comments will be canceled.

Governor Doug Ducey ratified Arizona’s drought plan, but some components still need to be finalized. The legislation allows the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources to sign off on the interstate agreement once Congress approves the federal government’s involvement.

Meanwhile, the California Imperial Irrigation District has not yet agreed to their state’s plan. The district asked for 200 million dollars to restore the rapidly shrinking Salton Sea.

The Upper Basin states and Nevada have all completed their plans.

The Drought Contingency Plans won’t stave off a shortage on the Colorado River, which could be declared as early as next year. The goal is to prevent catastrophic drops in Lake Mead. Burman said any further delay on finishing the plans elevates that risk to unacceptable levels.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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