Environmental Defense Fund Calls on Bureau of Reclamation to Protect Colorado River Delta Wetlands

For Immediate Release

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Contact: 

Jennifer Pitt, 720-841-5366, jpitt@edf.org
Mary Kelly, 512-691-3431, mkelly@edf.org
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

Environmental Defense Fund Calls on Bureau of Reclamation to Protect Colorado River Delta Wetlands

BOULDER, Colo. - Environmental
Defense Fund (EDF) is calling on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to
ensure protection of the 40,000 acre Ciénega de Santa Clara, the largest and healthiest remaining wetland system in the delta of the Colorado River.

 

In
written comments filed today, EDF expresses serious concerns about
Reclamation's proposed pilot operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant. To read the comments in their entirety, or get more information about the issue, click here. 

"The pilot operation, as
currently proposed, would significantly undermine the health of the
Ciénega, which is the best remaining habitat in the Colorado River
Delta," said Mary Kelly, Vice President for Rivers and Deltas at EDF. "The Ciénega is a world class resource, and we should do everything possible to sustain it."

 

The Ciénega is located in the heart of Mexico's Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve, and is a haven for birds and other animals that migrate to the southwestern United States.
Reclamation's proposed year-long pilot operation of the Yuma Desalting
Plant would decrease the amount of water flowing to the Ciénega by 25%,
as well as degrading the quality of the water flowing there. 

 

"We understand that
Reclamation is under considerable pressure to operate the
desalinization plant, so we have offered a solution that would allow
the plant to operate while also protecting the flows to the Ciénega."
said Jennifer Pitt, Senior Resource Analyst at EDF.
"We advocate using local groundwater or agricultural wastewater to
maintain flows to the wetland. We believe that would be the best
solution for the entire region."

 

EDF also questions whether the
projected $15- $19 million investment in the desalination plant makes
economic sense. The funding would come from the federal government and
water supply entities, including possibly the Southern Nevada Water
Authority, the Central Arizona Project and the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. 

"This plant is old and
energy-intensive and the cost of the one-time water produced from this
pilot will be quite high -- on the order of $500 to $700 per acre-foot"
said Kelly.

 "We think that the entities that would get the 30,000
acre-feet of water potentially produced by the pilot operation should
explore whether they could lease a similar amount of water from farmers
or others. A $200 or $300 per acre-foot one-year lease might be an
extremely attractive offer to many farmers."

 

An acre-foot is approximately 325,000 gallons.

 

Environmental advocates in Mexico
are also deeply concerned about the future of the Ciénega. Osvel
Hinojosa, Director of the Water and Wetlands Program for Pronatura
Noroeste, one of Mexico's leading conservation groups, has been working with EDF to find solutions that will benefit both countries.

 

"The extensive development of
the Colorado River has left very little nature in the delta, but the
Ciénega is the crown jewel, harboring hundreds of thousands of
shorebirds and waterbirds that migrate between Mexico and the United States," said Hinojosa.

 

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