Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water rights
SALT LAKE CITY — An interagency team is scrambling to get rid of the last dregs of the massive Salton Sea, the largest manmade lake on the planet, a project that could cost nearly $40 million.
“We’re in a serious bind here,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the Colorado River Water Users Association, which has been fighting the Army Corps of Engineers and the states over a long-running dispute over the fate of the lake.
The current state of affairs could cost tens of thousands of Colorado River water users tens of millions of gallons by next summer if the Army Corps can’t move forward on the clean-up of the historic Lake Mead reservoir, which is the primary source of the water used for irrigation, recreation and drinking.
On Sunday, the Army Corps announced it was asking Nevada, California and Arizona to temporarily halt all water deliveries to the lake before it can start the cleanup.
But on Monday, the state’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, said the corps had violated federal law and had failed to provide sufficient water supplies.
The Corps responded that Sandoval had been misled by a U.S. Geological Survey report issued in 1996 and that the Nevada, California and Arizona governors had failed to consult with the Army Corps about the lake’s state.
But Sandoval said the state’s water commissioners had not been fully informed and “we’re very confident the water we’ve requested is sufficient.”
The conflict centers on the U.S. Army Corps’ right to control Lake Mead, and a long-running dispute over how it is used.
The lake is the primary source of water used for irrigation, recreation and drinking. It is one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water.
The corps issued a “categorical determination” last year that it owns Lake Mead and can regulate its use for power production and recreation purposes.
In December, Nevada, California and Arizona filed lawsuits