U.S. Water News Online
SAN DIEGO -- A bipartisan group of 22 California lawmakers
signed a letter blaming the Bush administration for the collapse of a
landmark water pact aimed at reducing the state's dependence on the
In a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Republican Rep.
Duncan Hunter wrote that her department's lack of leadership helped
unravel the deal last month.
``The federal government's contribution ... during the past
several months has been limited mainly to the issuance of threats and
provocations that have impeded, rather than encouraged agreements
among Southern California water agencies,'' Hunter wrote in the
two-page letter signed by a host of Democrats and Republicans from
across the state.
Rapid growth across the West and the worst drought in the river's
recorded history is leading Norton to end an arrangement that let
California claim more than its fair share. The arrangement had been
in place for years because the six other states that drew from the
river failed to use their full allotments.
Recently, the interior secretary said she would cut the amount of
water California may take from the Colorado unless the state reached
a deal by Dec. 31 that would transfer water from desert farms to
The deal collapsed when a water board in California's poorest
county refused to relinquish any of its massive share of river water,
in large part due to concerns over the future of the Salton Sea, the
state's largest lake.
The Bush administration has tried to stay on the sidelines by
insisting that California has to come up with a way of using less
Bennett Raley, the administration's point man on Western water
issues, denied the lawmakers' claims, saying the interior secretary
under former President Clinton sent Congress a report in early 2000
that satisfied the law.
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