New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California by 20 percent, officials say
A Colorado River dam in Colorado has been closed since 2006. (Jeff Kowalski/Daily Camera via AP)
A bill that would open the controversial Hoover Dam to more tourism, which has drawn intense opposition from the environmental community, passed its first public hearing in Colorado on July 12, but it is now tied up in the U.S. Senate after several senators said they weren’t sure they supported it.
The bill, known as the Dam Safety Act, would allow the dam, which has been closed since 2006 and slated to be demolished in about four years, to be used for “educational, recreational, environmental research, or archeological purposes.” The bill’s supporters say it would bring more tourists to Colorado and attract companies that do research and development in areas along the river that have been inundated by the dam.
It is not clear if the bill will be signed into law by President Barack Obama, who is vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard after Labor Day, or when it will come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. It is also not certain that the final version of the bill will meet with approval from California, which has already approved more than $100 million to protect fish, wildlife, and habitat on the lower California River.
The bill’s failure in the U.S. Senate would set back efforts to increase tourism along the Colorado River, which is the country’s most important source of water — and also potentially reduce some of the water that flows out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a wetland that supports millions of migrating birds and is crucial to the regional economy.
The Colorado River has dried up several times in the past century, including in the drought of the early 1940s, and federal officials have acknowledged that a solution is needed. They believe closing the dam will solve the problem, but the dam’s opponents, including environmentalists, say it could create more problems, including flooding of the river and possibly even