Department Of Interior
|Office of the Secretary||
Kip White: 202-513-0684:
|For Immediate Release:October 17, 2003||
Frank Quimby: 202-208-7291
Historic Day for Colorado, Basin States
Gov. Owens Say River Pact
(DENVER, COLORADO) Colorado's
water is now Colorado's to develop.
By reallocating the state's share, California will be able to provide water for its growing coastal cities, such as San Diego, while allowing farming communities in Southern California, such as the Imperial Valley, to strengthen their economies through water efficiency projects, canal modernization, conservation, and water marketing. The pact also addresses environmental concerns with the Salton Sea, an inland lake that depends on runoff from Imperial Valley farms.
Because of California's agreement, and the promises made in the agreement, Norton has fully reinstated the Interim Surplus Guidelines, which provides California access to extra Colorado water over 14 years to ease its gradual reduction and lessen pressure on Northern California to send more water south. California had lost that access early this year when it was unable to meet a benchmark requirement for the Quantification Settlement Agreement.
The reinstated Guidelines also will allow Nevada, which lost access to extra water from the Colorado River along with California, to again have access to this water and return to the long-term path it has developed to meet the needs of its growing population.
The Interim Surplus Guidelines --the framework to carry out California's quantification agreement -- were worked out during years of difficult negotiations. In late 2000, California, the other six Basin States, and the Department of the Interior agreed on this framework, which provided California a choice. If the state met all of the Guidelines' benchmarks, it would continue to have access to extra water during the transition to its 4.4 million acre-foot limit. If California failed to meet a benchmark, it would lose access to that extra water.
Despite the efforts of many local, state and federal officials, California failed to meet the first major benchmark under the Interim Surplus Guidelines on Dec. 31, 2002, and automatically lost its access to the extra Colorado River water.
Since then, negotiations among the four California water agencies, the Department, and representatives of all seven Colorado River Basin States have continued, and all parties worked through an astounding series of difficult issues. "But they persevered," Norton said, "and as a result of the hard work, dedication, and persistence of those negotiators, we are here today to celebrate a success for the Colorado River, the State of Colorado, and all the Basin States."
Norton said the agreement also demonstrates "what can be accomplished by working cooperatively -- despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles -- and by using innovative approaches to find solutions to the water supply challenges facing communities across the West."
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