Award for Unprecedented Collaboration to Manage Colorado River Shortage
Washington, D.C. – Michael Cohen, Senior Associate of the Pacific Institute, is one of the recipients of the prestigious “Partners in Conservation Award” presented by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 7, honoring achievement in crafting innovative strategies to manage Colorado River shortages and improve the efficiency of water users.
“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s painstaking, collaborative efforts to craft a consensus shortage strategy generated tremendous good will and directly led to the biggest and most forward-thinking changes to river management in generations,” said Michael Cohen at the Boulder, Colorado office of the Pacific Institute. “Unlike previous closed-door negotiations about the river and efforts to exclude environmental and other interests, this new shortage strategy welcomed all those with good and productive ideas; the river is the better for it.”
Uncertainty about when Colorado River shortages would be declared and how they would be allocated drove the federal effort to develop clear shortage guidelines. A collaborative of regional and national conservation organizations, including the Pacific Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Sonoran Institute, and Sierra Club, worked together to develop sensible shortage guidelines, known as “Conservation Before Shortage.” Conservation Before Shortage was founded on the principle that the Secretary should take greater responsibility to operate the Colorado River in a manner that minimized shortages in Arizona, California, and Nevada, and avoided the risk of curtailment in the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through conservation, more efficient reservoir operations, and increased flexibility in the management of river resources, while protecting or enhancing environmental values associated with the Colorado River.
The conservation collaborative worked extensively with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to refine and compare the proposal with other alternatives. Ultimately, Reclamation incorporated several key provisions of Conservation Before Shortage into its final “Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead,” signed by Secretary Kempthorne in 2007.
“We are honored to be a part of the collaborative receiving this award, and are encouraged that Reclamation incorporated some of our suggestions,” said Cohen. “We look forward to working with Reclamation and other stakeholders to build upon the solid foundation and goodwill created by the shortage guidelines to overcome the many formidable challenges still facing the river, including restoration of the Colorado River delta and resolution of the question of shortages for Mexico.”