EIS developed for historic Colorado River water accord

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and seven Western states have reached consensus on Colorado River water allocations during times of drought. At the center of this accord, signed by the Secretary of the Interior in Las Vegas, is an Environmental Impact Statement developed by national environmental engineering firm Brown and Caldwell, who assisted the USBR in developing and evaluating alternative operating strategies...

WALNUT CREEK, CA, Dec. 14, 2007 -- The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and seven Western states have reached consensus on Colorado River water allocations during times of drought. And at the center of this historic accord, which was signed by the Secretary of the Interior yesterday in Las Vegas, is an Environmental Impact Statement developed by national environmental engineering firm Brown and Caldwell.

"The EIS included several alternatives for managing Colorado River Water," says Ruben Zubia, Brown and Caldwell's project manager. "The preferred alternative is a huge push forward to balancing the needs of users in the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins for years to come."

In a release announcing the issuance of the final EIS in November, Commissioner of Reclamation Robert Johnson said, "These proposed operational guidelines will provide Colorado River water users and managers in the U.S. a greater degree of certainty about how the two large reservoirs on the Colorado River will be operated under low water conditions, and when -- and by how much -- water deliveries will be reduced in the Lower Basin in drought or other low reservoir conditions."

Brown and Caldwell assisted the USBR in developing and evaluating alternative operating strategies; as well as hydrologic and water quality modeling; evaluation of potential environmental impacts; public outreach; and coordination with stakeholders, cooperating agencies and regulatory agencies. The company also prepared an Environmental Impact Statement documenting study findings and a Biological Assessment for Endangered Species Act consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The final EIS presented six alternatives -- Basin States, Conservation Before Shortage, Water Supply, Reservoir Storage, No Action, and the Preferred alternatives. The Preferred Alternative included:
• Discrete levels of shortage volumes associated with Lake Mead elevations to conserve reservoir storage and provide water users and managers in the Lower Basin with greater certainty to know when, and by how much, water deliveries will be reduced in drought and other low reservoir conditions
• Coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead determined by specified reservoir conditions that would minimize shortages in the Lower Basin and avoid the risk of curtailments in the Upper Basin
• A mechanism to encourage and account for augmentation and conservation of water supplies, referred to as Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS), that would minimize the likelihood and severity of potential future shortages
• Modification and extension of the Interim Surplus Guidelines through 2026

Ratified by Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada, the agreement was adopted by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne yesterday in Las Vegas. It will take effect in January 2008, and be used each year through 2026 to develop the Annual Operating Plan for Colorado River reservoirs.

Established in 1947, Brown and Caldwell is a multi-disciplined environmental engineering and consulting firm headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif.

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