Crop art highlights Colorado River woes as Obama visits Grand Junction

Activists press for better conservation measures to sustain river flows

A message for President Obama. Photo courtesy Protect the Flows.

By Summit Voice

Even before he lands in Colorado, President Obama will be reminded of the one of the key long-term environmental issues in the West, as communities, water providers, would-be oil shale developers and others wrangle over the fate of the Colorado River.

To highlight grassroots concern over the Colorado, the advocacy group Protect the Flowsworked with crop artists Stand Herd to carve a giant message into a field that should be visible as Obama flies into Grand Junction. The message covers about one acre; each letter is 30 feet from top to bottom and the entire message is about 360 feet long, equal to the height of a 36 story building.

The simple phrase, “Mr. Prez – We rely on the Colorado River,” will help make clear that continued plans for increased diversions from the already over-appropriate river pose a fundamental threat to the region.

Protect the Flows represents about 500 Western businesses that depend on the river, which supports thousands of jobs, agricultural fields and livestock in the region.

According to Protect the Flows, excessive demands have depleted water reserves. In a letter to the President in advance of his visit, the coalition urged the Administration to implement cost-effective measures — including water conservation provisions proposed in the Farm Bill — to address these issues.

Recreation on the Colorado River and its tributaries supports 80,000 jobs in Colorado and results in nearly $10 billion in total economic output. In larger Southwest, river recreation supports nearly a quarter million American jobs and $26 billion in total economic output.

Threats to the Colorado River include continued pressure to develop oil shale in western Colorado Utah; a proposal to divert water from the Green River in Wyoming (a key northern tributary) to the Front Range of Colorado, and several new diversions from the Colorado River headwaters region to the Front Range.

More precious water resources could also be used by energy companies seeking to step up their fracking projects, while climate change — highlighted by this year’s drought — shows the need to manage the Colorado River conservatively.

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