WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Western rivers are performing a disappearing act according to a new report. The liberal think tank Center for American Progress says Wyoming rivers are in jeopardy for a variety of reasons, but there could be hope if action is taken. The author of the report says it’s a troubling picture in the west.
Kate Kelly says the disappearing rivers of the west could quickly become a crisis.
“If we don’t change the way we protect our rivers, we will be bordering on a crisis,” said Kate Kelly, an author of the report.
Rivers irrigate crops, provide drinking water, serve as habitats, and Kelly says they bring in $5.6 billion to the Wyoming recreation economy alone. But why are the Cowboy States’ rivers in danger?
“We looked at both what’s happening in the rivers, that includes dams, and also along the rivers. So that’s irrigation, energy development, urban sprawl,” said Kelly.
Kelly says 49-percent of all Wyoming rivers have been altered. She says 30-percent of rivers no longer flow freely in Wyoming, and thinks more than 1500 dams play a role. Kelly says federal protection could help save these waters.
But federal protection of lands brings a flow of controversy to Capitol Hill. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) says local leaders should decide what happens to Wyoming waters.
“I have a great deal of respect and confidence in the people of Wyoming making these decisions than people in Washington,” said Barrasso.
Barrasso says when he travels home to his state, he doesn’t hear concerns over disappearing rivers. He says the only constituent concerns have to do with the federal government overstepping boundaries.
“The state has played a very significant role, continues to play that role. People who are on the ground know the situation,” said Barrasso.
Of the 11 Western states in the Disappearing River analysis, Wyoming had the fourth least altered rivers.