Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Southwest’s unbridled thirst for Colorado River water could prove disastrous

VERNAL, Utah (Nation World News) — Among those who like to chase trout with winged flies, the mere mention of a certain 7-mile stretch of Utah’s Green River might make a stern man furious.

“I’ve guided New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Alaska,” Gordon Tharett describes his 30-year career guiding elite fly fishermen around the world. “I had never seen anything like it”.

“It is phenomenal,” said Stephen Little, the son of a local ranger, who has been swimming and fishing in the section since childhood. “You have people from all over the world. Eric Clapton has been here. Tiger Woods. If you’re a fly fisherman, this is one of the places to go.”

But it brings the worst drought to the western US in 1,200 years, and his daydream turns to worry and disgust.

They may have the most water, hundreds of miles from fallow fields in Arizona or golden lawns in Los Angeles, but they know that in the Colorado River system, the enormous and uncontrolled demand for water downstream threatens everything that rises above is towards.

“A golf course requires millions of gallons of water,” Tharet said. “It will get to a point where people have to decide, ‘Should I live or play golf? Should I have a lawn in the desert or pay $100 for a basket of berries?’

“The gorge is on fire,” John Wesley Powell wrote in a journal, when he first saw the golden hour illuminating the red rocks that would become known as Fleming Gorge.

The Southwest'S Unbridled Thirst For Colorado River Water Could Prove Disastrous

A fly fisherman on the Green River, south of Fleming Gorge Dam.

It was 1871 and after launching her ship, Emma Dean, on Wyoming’s Green River, the one-armed Civil War veteran was on her way to becoming the first known person to swim and row this major tributary across the Colorado and Grand River. valley.

Their visit followed the passage of the Homestead Act, which promised that any citizen willing to settle and reform America’s Wild West could claim 150 acres of federal land for free.

But after studying the geology and hydrology of the Colorado Basin, Powell warned that the policy was “building on a legacy of conflict and litigation over water rights, as there is not enough water to supply these lands.”

Congress and newly formed state governments ignored the warnings, and by the mid-20th century it became convinced that by tying various points along the Colorado system they could engineer enough oases to keep farms, ranches and megacities alive.

During the foundation stone laying ceremony of Fleming Gorge Dam in 1963, John F. “In this part of America, the key is water,” Kennedy said. “The Colorado Basin will no longer be home to an erratic flow of water, which causes drought and poverty in dry years and ruin in wet years. Water will now be available where it is needed…”

I wish if it happens…

Less than three months later, tragedy struck the president in Dallas, and in the years following its opening, the dam was having a devastating effect on fish flows.

California residents want water-saving measures 2:54

But in the late 1970s, after a graduate student convinced Utah’s fly-fishing governor to consider rebuilding a dam called a penstock, engineers were able to break free from the specific depths of the Fleming Gorge Reservoir, below used to control the temperature of the waste water and create a The Goldilocks zone is for insects that hatch and rainbow and brown trout feast on them.

The Southwest'S Unbridled Thirst For Colorado River Water Could Prove Disastrous

Green River is one of the best places in the country for fly fishing due to the controlled temperature of the water released by the Fleming Gorge Dam.

Today, much of the local economy depends on tourists who come to splash in the reservoir, which extends deep into Wyoming, or fish and swim in the Green River. And when the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and four states in the upper Colorado River basin agreed to release 616,740,000 cubic meters (1/6 of the reservoir’s capacity) to help dry communities in the South, it sparked a local uproar.

“There are a lot of people who just go crazy,” Little said, paddling through the swirling crystal clear waters. “It’s their water. It’s their geographical right. People”.

“We’re worried,” said Fleming Gorge Resort co-owner Woody Baer, ​​as he leaned against the shelves with hand-tied flies. “As Lake Powell has submerged over the years, we are concerned, ‘Will the Fleming Gorge reach the point where it no longer generates electricity or goes down?'”

Lake Powell, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border, is named after the man who first sounded the alarm more than 150 years ago. And climate change is accelerating his dire predicament.

The Southwest'S Unbridled Thirst For Colorado River Water Could Prove Disastrous

The temperature controlled outlet of the reservoir creates a Goldilocks area for insect and trout hatching.

The reservoir fell very close to the “dead pool,” said Nicholas Williams, energy manager for the Bureau of Reclamation for the Upper River, when “we drew a vortex similar to that of water draining into a bathtub.” Basin Colorado. , “If you don’t have a deep enough pool of water above, it creates problems and can damage power plant equipment and is too low to generate electricity.”

Recovery officials told a Senate committee this week that western states should prepare for even more dramatic cuts in Colorado River water allocation in 2023.

“How long can we do this?” Williams said of the Fleming Gorge release. “It’s limited to a few years. The rest will depend on how long we live in drought and where our water is used. We have to learn to live with the water we have. And during the last decades we’ve The usage that is maintained is about to change.”

Tharet thinks officials are under the misconception that they can save anything by flushing reservoirs in the upper basin.

“It’s like a teenager when they get their first paycheck,” Tharet told Nation World News, “and the next day they go and spend it all and they don’t get paid for two weeks and then they panic. All these upper deposits, which are the soul of everything below, will have nothing.”

He added: “And then they’re going to be really nervous.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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