Aug 20 2008
Republican presidential nominee-presumptive and Arizona Senator John McCain stirred a desert hurricane in mid-August when he remarked that the current Colorado River agreement should be renegotiated.
In a telephone discussion with the Pueblo (CO) Chieftain, McCain said that the original Colorado River water agreement (dating from 1922) was undertaken at a time when the southwest was a dramatically different place. He then was quoted as saying:
“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. 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. 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.”
The reference to renegotiation led to an eruption in Colorado (although McCain did say later he did not intend the downstream states take more of the river’s water). He also backed off further later, saying his statement was “mistakenly construed as a call to rescind the Colorado Compact.”
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, noting that the agreement had most recently been re-developed as recently as last year, said “It would be sheer folly to re-open the compact at a time like this when all of the states are working cooperatively on this issue.”
Democratic Colorado Senator Ken Salazar said the deal would be renegotiated “over my dead body.” Bob Schaffer, a Republican running for the state’s other Senate said, said it would happen “over my cold, dead political carcass.”