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Thu, April 18

Eco-group seeks Colorado River ‘personhood’
Cites Citizens United high court decision as applicable precedent

The Colorado River and its tributaries, like the Little Colorado here, generate an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic activity a year throughout the states in the watershed. The study was commissioned by Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses in the region that rely on the river. (File Photo by Alicia Burtner/USGS)

The Colorado River and its tributaries, like the Little Colorado here, generate an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic activity a year throughout the states in the watershed. The study was commissioned by Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses in the region that rely on the river. (File Photo by Alicia Burtner/USGS)

People are people – but corporations are people too, based on recent legal opinions. So why not the entire Colorado River ecosystem?

According to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, that’s a discussion for the U.S. Congress, not Denver’s U.S. District Court.

In September, Environmentalist group Deep Green Resistance filed a legal action to sue the State of Colorado under the 11th Amendment, declaring that the court must declare the Colorado River ecosystem as a “person,” entitled to “the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate and naturally evolve.” In Arizona, state water agencies are at a loss to determine the implications of such a ruling.

The Colorado provides a steady supply of freshwater to much of Arizona and the Southwestern U.S., serving about 15 percent of the U.S. population. For a region that prospers on the ebb and flow of the river, such a ruling could have far-reaching implications for life in the Southwest. While some groups scoff at the possibility of such a ruling, what’s happening at the U.S. District Court in Denver, Arizona and tribal agencies are paying attention.

According to the complaint, Deep Green Resistance would serve as guardians for the Colorado River, able to bring legal action on the river’s behalf. Deep Green Resistance specifically cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United v. FEC” ruling, which granted “personhood” and legal rights to for-profit corporations.

Deep Green Resistance alleges that the Colorado River allotments or misuse by the state of Colorado are detrimental to the river’s ecosystem, yet the Colorado Attorney General’s office says the organization’s point is moot.

This week, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing that there was no specific injury for complaint in which “relief could be granted.”

A status conference for the case of Colorado River Ecosystem/Deep Green Resistance v. the State of Colorado is set to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Nina Wang on Nov. 14.

Representatives from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the Mohave County Water Authority and the Colorado River Indian Tribes declined to comment on the case as of Friday afternoon.

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