The Biden administration helps broker a deal to save the Colorado River
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Photo Credit: Tom Gainor
The Bureau of Reclamation, led by a Biden appointee, issued an ultimatum last summer, when reservoir levels were careening toward crisis points, and put legal teeth behind a threat to intervene unilaterally. That forced recalcitrant negotiators to the table. The Biden administration and Congress also successfully muscled through a $4 billion pot of money to help pay for conservation efforts.
Last spring, the states agreed to a short-term deal to head off the crisis for a couple years, a pact sweetened by the federal cash. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton has been on a PR spree across the West to promote the administration’s deals with water agencies in key swing states like Arizona.
Negotiators are now starting to figure out what to do after the deal runs out in 2026. They face a spring deadline to agree on how to share the Colorado River’s dwindling flows over the next 20 years. But the federal government will not likely face any big decisions until after the presidential election.
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