Last week, the State of Arizona met the deadline for their water contingency plan. However, Friday February 1, the day after Governor Ducey signed the bills for the contingency plan, officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation stated in a notice that the drought contingency plans from Arizona, California, and Nevada are incomplete; therefore the states missed the federal deadline to finish their drought contingency plans.
Arizona lawmakers passed legislation authorizing the plan just over six hours prior to the January 31 midnight deadline. On Thursday the Central Arizona Water Conservation District held a special meeting of the Board of Directors to discuss drought contingency agreements. During the meeting the Board listed 15 agreements that are either still in draft or concept form. These agreements are necessary for Arizona’s drought contingency plan to be complete.
As a result of the incomplete plans, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman submitted a notice to the Federal Register requesting recommendations from the seven Colorado Basin State governors “…for protective actions [the] Interior should take amid ongoing severe and prolonged drought.”
Burman stated in 2018 that if the drought contingency plans were not ratified by January 31, the Bureau of Reclamation could take over crucial management decisions, including imposing their own rules, and changing water allocation allotments.
The Department of the Interior will begin accepting the input from the basin state governors beginning March 4, 2019 through March 19, however, the states have now been given until March 4, when the comment period opens, to complete and ratify their plans.
The Drought Contingency Plan is designed to cut water usage and delivery in an effort to keep Lake Mead and Lake Powell from dangerously low levels. In the Federal Register filing, Burman stated that over the last ten years, the risk of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reaching critically low levels has increased almost four-fold.
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