Politics 'Save the river': House passes bill on Colorado River...

‘Save the river’: House passes bill on Colorado River drought, wildfires

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Phoenix – US House A comprehensive drought and wildfire relief package was passed Friday that authorizes funding for drought-relief efforts on the Colorado River, bolsters wildfire recovery efforts and supports tribal water rights along the Arizona-California border.

Rap. The measures, sponsored by Greg Stanton and Raul Grijalva, both Arizona Democrats, are part of a larger package of 49 bills that seek to prepare the US for an increase in drought and wildfires, called the Wildfire Response and Draft Resilience Act.

The package passed 218-199, mostly along party lines.

Money is not guaranteed. The package still needs to pass the Senate, which has repeatedly blocked Democratic-backed House bills this session. If it passes both the House and Senate, the package will go to the White House for the President’s signature.

A bill in the package, HR 8435Or the Colorado River Draft Response Act, which would give the Department of the Interior $500 million in discretionary funding to relieve pressure on the Colorado River system and prevent Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are historically low, from falling to critically low levels. .

Loss of Lake Mead Water:NASA satellite images show Lake Mead water levels falling to lowest level since 1937

The Colorado River, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change, has seen water levels drop over the years, and last August the federal government took the unprecedented step of declaring a shortage on the river, cutting off water to some farmers in the region.

Under the bill passed Friday, states and other entities can apply for grants for a variety of things, including compensating users to voluntarily reduce their water use, drilling wells, lining canals to prevent water from seeping into the ground, and improving efficiency for hydropower. is production

The bill also puts a shorter timeline on certain elements of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, including implementing a water recycling and reuse program and funding to improve watershed health.

‘The moment of reckoning is near’:Feds warn of massive cuts needed to shore up Lake Mead, Colorado River

Another bill, HR 8516, the Wildfire Response Improvement Act, would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update its policies regarding wildfires. Stanton and other northern Arizona advocates said this would increase funding for recovery after wildfires, such as floods and mudslides, and treat wildfires as seriously as other natural disasters.

Flooding has proven to be a serious problem after wildfires in Arizona, for example, especially in northern areas of the state. Wildfires scar the earth and make the soil “hydrophobic,” preventing it from absorbing water easily. Heavy monsoon rains following wildfires can cause downhill flooding and mudslides.

Flagstaff’s mayor declared a state of emergency Wednesday because of flooding following a wildfire from burn scars from a pipeline fire.

“Today, federal support for fighting wildfires ends as soon as the fire is extinguished,” a press release from Stanton’s office read. “But post-fire risks are immense… Arizona state and local governments must bear the full cost of post-fire costs.”

California in Graphics:The Oak Fire near Yosemite was California’s largest wildfire this year

Arizona Sens. US by Mark Kelly and Kirsten Sinema. Grijalva’s measure introduced in the Senate mirrors and authorizes Colorado River Indian tribes to lease water as part of a broader conservation effort. The House bill adds several changes sought by tribal officials.

Under the bill, tribes can lease protected water to users outside the reservation and participate in conservation programs to augment regional water supplies. Tribal officials say the revenue could help repair aging water infrastructure.

Congressional authorization is needed to lease water to a tribe, as the 17 tribes in the Colorado River Basin are able to do.

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CRIT Chairwoman Amelia Flores said the move recognizes the need for drought relief on the river and “reflects our respect for the Colorado River and our commitment to protecting river life.”

Other bills in the package would establish minimum base pay and mental health leave for wildland firefighters; A 10-year strategy needs to be developed to address forest fires; and direct funding toward research and community planning around the health effects of wildfire smoke.

Follow Zaina Syed on Twitter @theyyyyyy.

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