Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water
Toltec Creek on the Salton Sea is seen in 2015. An extensive environmental review of Colorado River Water Project (CRWP) has been under way for nearly six decades, and is now headed to federal court.Credit: Mike Russell/CNET
By JAMES HANSON
June 14, 2017 —
A U.S. government official who reviewed the long-envisioned massive environmental review of the Colorado River Project (CRWP) under President George Bush is urging Congress to take action and block the move to block a new California lawsuit that has emerged as a potential threat.
In an open letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Department of Interior’s regional administrator, Susan Burkett, cites the risk of a new California lawsuit now under way and suggests Congress should block the move to block the California lawsuit from going forward.
The California lawsuit is targeting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which has proposed to build two pumping facilities to increase supplies from its Lake Mead reservoir, to a level sufficient to serve California’s Central Valley. The lawsuit also accuses the Bureau of not fully accounting for environmental damage to the Salton Sea, an underwater coastal plain in the lower reaches of the Colorado River drainage.
“If the Bureau of Reclamation completes the environmental review without addressing these issues at the same time, it is likely that California will take steps to seek legal remedies for these issues in federal court,” Burkett wrote.
The letter also expresses concern that if Congress blocks the California lawsuit, California could use “tort claims in the event of an adverse decision by the court to bring a parallel action,” according to Burkett.
The letter was written by Burkett in response to an open letter that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent to the Bureau of Reclamation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 3, urging the agencies to begin an environmental review of the CRWP immediately. The letter claims the Bureau failed to fully