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Mon, July 04

Column | Congress needs to solve Western water woes

You don’t have to look hard to find examples of federal overreach: dictation of school curriculum, one-size-fits-all healthcare, and now the debate over firearms taxes. The constant federal intrusion has created an environment where our immediate reaction is to say “NO” to the national government’s oversight in any situation. As a constitutionalist, I agree that most powers should be divested to the states and municipalities, however, the magnitude of our water crisis in Arizona requires the full might of Uncle Sam.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution defines the role and function of Congress as: “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

The Colorado River Basin provides hydropower to the Western Power Grid and water to over 40 million people in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, tribal lands and even Mexico.

This crisis is at a critical mass and anyone who argues this is a state issue does not understand the function of Congress.

The scarcity of water could be a potential catalyst for the collapse of the U.S. economy. Yuma provides 90% of the country’s lettuce and other fresh produce to the entire United States during the winter. Once the river’s water level is too low to provide water irrigation, every family’s kitchen table and pocketbook will be affected. The massive national economic impact on industries such as transportation, manufacturing, restaurants and others will ripple throughout the globe. The electricity produced will go away, too, dropping our property values and causing a mass migration from the West. I’m not ready to move out of Arizona because our government shrugged their shoulders and did nothing.

If you think things are not as dark as they seem, I ask you to learn more about Meadview, Arizona. Meadview’s multi-million dollar tourism economy is based on boat access to Lake Mead. Over the last few years, the roughly 1,500 residents have watched the water recede and in May 2022, Arizona lost its last remaining boat launch access to Lake Mead. According to the National Park Service, the water is falling 12 feet every year and projections do not indicate that this pace will slow.

State and local governments must take the lead on managing aquifers, land assessment and small scale conservation and water reuse. Congress punting their responsibility to the states while they argue over issues outside of their jurisdiction is the type of inaction of which we have become accustomed. Because of the vacuum in federal leadership, state level lawmakers are discussing plans to pump flood water from the Mississippi with their counterparts, which is far beyond their scope of duty. While it is a delicate balancing act, it is the job of our representative in Congress to bring national attention to this issue and use protocol to facilitate progress.

Interstate water rights, management of the dams, and exploring and executing big projects like pumping in flood waters from the plains states or desalination of seawater require the involvement of the federal government. President Thomas Jefferson established the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for this type of project. We can put America first by putting Americans to work at every level from engineers to laborers, and investing in our legacy just like we did in the past with projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system.

Let’s inspire the next generation. When the naysayers say it can’t be done, ask them if they still think America is the greatest country in the world. Remind them that the U.S. put a man in flight when much of the world thought it only a dream and continued to the heavens until we put a man on the moon. When the French threw down their shovels, America picked them up and changed the course of global commerce by building the Panama Canal. One affected business owner in Meadview, Randy Glaser, laments: “We have somehow lost what America once was, being great at fixing problems. Who will step up now and make things happen?”

If your federally elected officials can’t handle the responsibility of addressing the water crisis, do your duty at the polls and fire them. Candidates who will not rise to the occasion to address this grave challenge do not deserve your vote.

(Adam Morgan of Kingman is a Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives District 9.)

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