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McCain All Wet on Water Issue in Colorado « The Washington Independent

Jul 31, 2020
Judging from the headlines in Colorado newspapers, Sen. John McCain opened up a can of worms when he suggestedlast week to The Pueblo [Colo.] Chieftain that the 1922 agreement that divides up the water from the Colorado River among seven Western states needs to be renegotiated in favor of states experiencing rapid growth — like his home state of Arizona, as well as California and Nevada. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming also share the river’s water. Here’s what McCain told The Chieftain:
"I don’t think there’s any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties," McCain said while on his way to the Aspen Institute. "I think that there’s a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource.
"Conditions have changed dramatically, so I’m not saying that anyone would be forced to do anything because I’m a federalist and believe in the rights of states," he added. "But at the same time there’s already been discussion amongst the states, and I believe that more discussion amongst the governors is probably something that everybody wants us to do."
Of course, this prospect is not too popular in the upriver states that are almost certain to be negatively effected by a renegotiation. With increasing demand for water, combined with declining snowpack in the Rocky Mountain West — which many scientists attribute to global warming — threatening the river’s abilityto replenish itself, none of the states involved would be likely to agree to give away part of its share. The New York Times reportedin February that some scientists believe Lake Mead, created by the construction of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, could run dry by 2020.
The Denver Post today ran an editorialprotesting McCain’s statements:
John McCain proved to be a uniter not a divider with his suggestion that the 1922 Colorado River compact be renegotiated to allocate more water to his home state of Arizona as well as Nevada and California.
McCain’s comments in an interview with Charles Ashby of the Pueblo Chieftain united practically every political figure in Colorado, regardless of party, to denounce the GOP presidential candidate’s proposal.
"Over my dead body," snapped Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar.
"Over my cold, dead, political carcass," echoed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer.
"On this issue, [McCain] couldn’t be more wrong," Democratic Senate candidate Mark Udall said…
McCain’s comments were thus not only political poison in Colorado, they displayed a disturbing ignorance of the realities of the West’s scarce water resources.
To say Westerners are disappointed in McCain would be an understatement. For the first time since Barry Goldwater’s and George McGovern’s 1964 and 1972 disasters, we finally get a son of the Rocky Mountain states running for president. And on the region’s most vital issue — water — McCain unthinkingly mumbles the same parochial tripe he doubtless delivered dozens of times to rave reviews at luncheons of the Phoenix Rotary Club.
Colorado is, of course, shaping up to be a major battleground in November. The RealClearPolitics averageof statewide polls shows the race in Colorado is as tight as can be — McCain leads by a mere half-percentage point. At, the political handicapping Website, Colorado is the only white state on the electoral map — all the others are some shade of red or blue — signifying The Rocky Mountain State is not leaning in either direction. It’s a true toss-up. Obviously, McCain views Colorado, with its nine electoral votes, as important — he has visited the state at least six times since he effectively clinched the Republican nomination Mar. 4. Cavalier comments about fiddling with the West’s water status quo — water is one of the paramount issues in the region — could quickly undue all of McCain’s efforts to woo Colorado’s voters.
Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke is an economist, marketing strategist, and orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience crafting compelling narratives that resonate worldwide. He holds a Journalism degree from Columbia University, an Economics background from Yale University, and a medical degree with a postdoctoral fellowship in orthopedic medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dexter’s insights into media, economics, and marketing shine through his prolific contributions to respected publications and advisory roles for influential organizations. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive knee replacement surgery and laparoscopic procedures, Dexter prioritizes patient care above all. Outside his professional pursuits, Dexter enjoys collecting vintage watches, studying ancient civilizations, learning about astronomy, and participating in charity runs.
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