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ICYMI: Hickenlooper Convenes Senators on Colorado River Crisis

Feb 22, 2023

“To combat the drought crisis on the Colorado River, we all need to work together.”

In case you missed it, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper spoke about his efforts to convene Colorado River Basin senators in an ongoing dialogue on the Western water crisis. In interviews with the Colorado Sun, Colorado Politics, KUNC, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, and The Hill, Hickenlooper emphasized that collaboration will be key as the seven Colorado River basin states work towards solutions to manage increasingly dry conditions.

The effort comes as drought made worse by climate change has caused water levels at the Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs to plummet to record lows. Last June, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation called on the seven basin states to agree on an emergency deal to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet (MAF) of water in 2023 to preserve the Colorado River system.

Check out the coverage below:

Colorado Sun: John Hickenlooper has been quietly convening Colorado River Basin senators to discuss Western water woes

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, sees the informal, bipartisan caucus as a way to mediate interstate disagreements over how the river should be managed — and who should have to use less of its water — in the hope of preventing federal intervention. While states’ governors may not meet on a regular basis, senators from across the river basin are frequently together in Washington, D.C.

“The idea here is that we’re looking at how to use more carrot and less stick,” he said. “The key here is the federal government is not the best one to force a deal. The best solution is going to be a solution that all seven states sign off on…”

…“We’re all really hearing what priorities and specific issues are with each state and with the water users in each state,” he said. “As long as we understand that and are working from the same set of facts, we’re probably going to come up with a much better solution than if things degenerate into lawsuits.”

Colorado Politics: Bureau of Reclamation faces Solomonic choice in picking plan to save Colorado River — and the West

For the past year, U.S. senators from the seven states have been meeting informally to discuss the crisis on the Colorado River, a group convened by Colorado’s John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics Monday he initially wanted to assemble a western caucus when he first got to D.C. two years ago, based on his own successful experience with the bipartisan Western Governors Association, where he served as chair in 2014 while serving as Colorado’s governor.

He met some initial reluctance, Hickenlooper indicated, with some asking, “Why would we do this?” The caucus’ goal is to make sure it can help the states create their own solution and to facilitate as much as possible a resolution to the problem, Hickenlooper said.

KUNC: New Colorado River Senate caucus takes shape

“Our role is not to take the place of the state water councils or the state governors,” Hickenlooper said. “It is really to facilitate and try to create an environment where we can find the right compromise and be able to use collaboration and cooperation in such a way that we create as little hardship, as little sacrifice for the farmers and ranchers of the Colorado River basin as possible.”

CNN Interview with Christiane Amanpour: Watch HERE, or see highlights below.

“People care about the water in the southwest. So I think the key here, what the senators can do, is we can provide perhaps more carrots and less sticks to try and help California and Arizona and Nevada sort through how they can do this in the wisest possible way. How can we adjust to a new reality in such a way that we try to protect those people most vulnerable? Especially the small farmers and ranchers.”

CNN: Senators form bipartisan Colorado River caucus as tensions rise in West over water crisis

As the Colorado River sinks further into crisis and tensions rise between Western states over how to divvy up painful water cuts, a bipartisan group of senators are formalizing a new caucus to examine how Washington could help.

What began as an informal group convened by Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado has grown to a council of senators that represent seven Colorado River basin states — Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada, according to Hickenlooper’s office. Details of the group were shared first with CNN.

“I think the Senate should be partners” with the states, Hickenlooper told CNN. “There might be additional resources that are needed to really solve this. I think most experts feel this is not just a drought — there is some level of aridification, desertification.”

…”We don’t have time to go through the courts and then have appeals and resolve that,” Hickenlooper said. “I think there is a real push to solve our own problems without having to litigate.”

The Hill: Hickenlooper rallies senators to help accelerate Colorado River compromise

Keeping the Colorado River flowing will require concessions from seven sparring states — but Congress may have the financial mobility to help get them there, according to Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.).

“We are working in a bipartisan fashion at this point,” he told The Hill on Monday. “There’s a recognition that a lot of people’s livelihoods are at stake, and there’s a real urgency.”

Other coverage includes Fox Colorado Springs, Fox Las Vegas, Fox Denver, NBC/ABC Grand Junction, and KOA


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