Water’s for Fightin’ – Utah Girds for Water War

October 22, 2021

Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting. – attributed to Mark Twain

Salt Lake Tribune:

The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would establish the so-called Colorado River Authority of Utah, along with a $9 million “legal defense fund,” intended to ensure that the state receives its allotted share of the Colorado’s dwindling flows.

“Our surrounding states have spent the last several years spending millions and millions of dollars to fight against our having our share,” Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said on the Senate floor, offering no evidence to support the assertion. “It’s important to our state to stop running our share of the water down the Colorado River. We need to recapture it. It’s our water. They’re making moves every day to posture in the surrounding states to take our water right away from us.”

Utah has shared the Colorado River’s flow with six Western states under a century-old agreement, but the Beehive State has been slow to push its stake, according to backers of HB297. Accordingly, Utah uses 54% of its share, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said shortly before the Senate approved the measure in a 24-3 vote.

Critics say this new water agency is really geared toward advancing the proposed Lake Powell pipeline and risks igniting a water war with the six other states, now on record opposing the pipeline that would funnel Colorado River water to St. George.

“This bill has been railroaded through the Utah Legislature despite widespread criticism about its climate change denial, lack of transparency and the bill’s exemption from conflict-of-interest laws,” said Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City. “We do not need an expensive agency. We need transparency. We need more conservation.”

The proposed Colorado River Authority of Utah would marshal a team of experts and lawyers to match the resources that California, Arizona and Nevada devote to asserting their interests in the river, according to Adams and co-sponsor House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

“The factor limiting growth isn’t our infrastructure, it’s not our land, even though almost 70% of our land is owned by the federal government. It’s water,” Adams said. “We know that 60% of the population of Utah relies on the Colorado River. … What this bill does is help preserve and conserve Utah’s right to the Colorado River. It’s very important that we hire and use the most technical specialists, both engineers, planners and those that want to conserve water.”

The bill now returns to the House for some minor amendments that require that chamber’s approval.

Ipson and other lawmakers allege the Colorado’s Lower Basin states are tapping Utah’s share of the river.

“This bill, and the products of this bill, will help us stop that nonsense,” Ipson said. “If the water that we turn loose down the Colorado were held behind the Glen Canyon Dam — that is our portion — Lake Powell would look a lot different today than it does.”

The Utah legislature has a shameful history of climate denial, as demonstrated recently when legislators used the anti-science “Prager University” as a resource on renewable energy, rather than actual experts.

Salt Lake Tribune:

The West’s forests are dying, its landscapes are burning and its rivers and reservoirs are shriveling up.

Utah just experienced its hottest summer on record, coming on the heels of its driest year on record. The negative impacts of climate change are everywhere and the evidence that it’s driven by human-caused emissions is irrefutable.

Yet some Utah lawmakers apparently are more worried about a Democratic president’s efforts to address the climate crisis than climate change’s potential to change life in Utah. That was the message of a one-sided presentation Wednesday before the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee.

“What are the implications to Utah families, businesses and government of a federal mandate requiring or compelling a rapid transformation from our current independent and reliable energy and transportation infrastructure to an energy and power infrastructure solely or primarily based on wind, solar and battery storage?” asked Rep. Keven Stratton, the Orem Republican who orchestrated Wednesday’s presentation.

The implications are bad news for Utah, according to the panel of state agency heads Stratton assembled.

“I look at what happens down in Sevier and Emery county in my district,” said Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield. “If we didn’t have [the Hunter and Huntington] power plants and we didn’t have those coal mines, life would be pretty strange down there with the economic impacts. And we just need to use good common sense, which is not so common anymore.”

The centerpiece of Stratton’s presentation was a 5-minute video created by the right-wing media platform known as PragerU. The video featured Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute delivering a scathing critique of the renewable energy sources championed by President Joe Biden’s policies. Not only do wind and solar have no chance of meeting U.S. energy needs, Mills alleged, but they carry greater environmental impacts than oil, gas and coal.

Nowhere does Mills mention how burning these fossil fuels dumps tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or describe the vast non-climate impacts associated with mining, transporting, burning and disposing of coal. According to all credible science, the buildup of atmospheric carbon is altering global climate systems, leading to sea level rise, violent tropical storms in the eastern U.S. and drought and fire in the West.

Stratton acknowledged there are other points of view, but he declined to let any of them get aired Wednesday, much to the dismay of Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, whose request to speak was denied.

Frankel denounced Wednesday’s spectacle as evidence of “an immense leadership failure.”


3 Responses to “Water’s for Fightin’ – Utah Girds for Water War”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Has a familiar ring to it. This sort of thing shall soon be Iquitos in many places. May wake some people up to the reality of CC.

  2. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:


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