New chairman cites leadership on protecting Lake Mead as key duty
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who in July won assurances that water stored in Lake Mead would be retained by Arizona, has been named chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power.
The new chairman’s subcommittee is responsible for overseeing federal involvement in a wide swath of water matters of substantial importance to Arizona and the Southwest.
The jurisdiction of the panel includes agricultural irrigation, reclamation projects, power marketing administrations, energy development impacts on water resources, groundwater resources and management, hydroelectric power and other energy-and-water related concerns.
The senator, moreover, said in a statement that he would use his chairmanship to safeguard his home state’s water supplies
“I look forward to using this chairmanship to improve stewardship of Arizona’s water and energy resources,” said Flake.
“Whether it’s strengthening oversight at (the Western Area Power Administration), protecting Arizona’s voluntary water contributions to Lake Mead, or taking proactive steps to prevent a drought declaration in Arizona, I will actively work with my colleagues on the Water and Power Subcommittee to hold federal agencies accountable.”
Last summer, Flake received a written assurance from the US Department of the Interior that Colorado River water stored by Arizona users in Lake Mead to maintain higher levels would not subsequently be released to other states, notably California.
Flake said at the time that his lengthy negotiations with California Senator Dianne Feinstein to improve inter-state cooperation on protecting Lake Mead was successful. Among other considerations, California water officials had become “more receptive” to Arizona’s water concerns as a result of his negotiations with Senator Feinstein.
The Flake/McCain amendment directed that a study be performed by the National Academy of Sciences on how to best control water-intensive invasive species like tamarisk, also known as salt cedar. It also required that the Interior Department create an implementation to put the study’s recommendations into action.
A federal report issued last August indicating a probable 2018 shortfall declaration affecting Colorado River water users also helped prompt negotiations.
“They’re more receptive than ever now that there is a potential shortage to be declared,” Flake said. “It’s something that draws people together.”
Flake is a fifth-generation Arizonan who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013. Prior to that he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2013.