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The Latest Bounce

 

A week after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced her resignation, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys announced that he will resign on April 15. The 34-year veteran of the Bureau says he’s ready to spend more time with his family in Moab, Utah. Both resignations come at a critical time, as the seven states that share the Colorado River face Interior’s Sept. 30 deadline for finalizing a plan to deal with continued drought on the river (HCN, 2/20/06: Colorado River states reach landmark agreement).

The Colorado River plan is especially important for Arizona, which barely avoided its driest winter on record. On March 11, after a record run of 144 days without precipitation, parts of Phoenix finally got up to three inches of rain. Even so, spring runoff in the Salt River Project watershed — a major source of the city’s water — will only be about one-fifth of average (HCN, 3/21/05: Arizona returns to the desert). "It’s just not gonna happen this year," says Dallas Reigle with the Salt River Project.

The Bonneville Power Administration must keep the Northwest Fish Passage Center open. That ruling, from the federal 9th Circuit Court, came in response to a lawsuit alleging that Bonneville Power director Stephen Wright and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, R, had retaliated against federal scientists at the Center. Last year, the Center released an analysis supporting a federal district judge’s decision to force Bonneville Power to spill more water from its dams to help salmon migrate to the ocean. In November, Sen. Craig cut the Center’s funding (HCN, 12/12/05: A bullet for the bearer of bad news).

The Forest Service doesn’t cut too many trees these days, possibly because it’s too busy trying to cut its own staff. The agency is reviewing 21,350 jobs — two-thirds of the total — for possible outsourcing by 2009 (HCN, 4/26/04: Outsourced). This year, the Forest Service wants to outsource 500 fire-fighting jobs, including the much-vaunted smokejumpers. A similar attempt was beaten back by Congress in 2004.