mcloudyn.png
Friday September 30th, 2022 7:54AM

Drought in Western US heats up as a Senate campaign issue

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RENO, Nev. (AP) — In a midterm campaign season dominated by inflation, abortion and crime, there’s another issue that is becoming more urgent in Western states: drought.

The topic of water historically has played little to no role in campaign ads in much of the region, but funding to fight drought is coming up now in door-knocking campaigns and is on the long list of talking points that advocacy groups are using to rally voters in two states with vulnerable Democratic incumbents and looming water cuts: Nevada and Arizona.

“This issue appeals to the economic anxiety of our voters and our people,” said Angel Lazcano, a Las Vegas-based organizer for Somos Votantes, which seeks to mobilize Latino voters across swing states.

Federal officials recently announced that Nevada and Arizona would get far less water in 2023 as the stranglehold on the Colorado River worsens because of drought, climate change and demand. The federal government threatened to impose deeper, broader cuts if the seven states that depend on the waterway can’t agree on how to use less.

The two vulnerable incumbents whose states are hit hardest by the cuts — Catherine Cortez Masto, of Nevada, and Mark Kelly, of Arizona — seized on the opportunity to seek funding through the federal legislation. They were joined by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who is seeking reelection in Colorado, and Arizona’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The four Western senators negotiated $4 billion in last-minute funding to help address the region’s growing water crisis in the Inflation Reduction Act.

In tight races in Nevada and Arizona, the Colorado River basin cuts and last-minute $4 billion in drought-relief funding will serve as a test of how influential access to water will be in deciding two of the most consequential Senate races this cycle.

Though still not allocated, the drought relief funding will generally pay farmers to leave fields unplanted and will pay for water conservation and habitat restoration projects.

Cortez Masto said in a brief interview that she doesn’t see it as a campaign issue, but rather an issue for the entire West.

Somos Votantes released ads in English and Spanish, thanking Cortez Masto for the funding. In Arizona, the Environmental Defense Fund did the same for Sinema and Kelly, who has touted the funding on social media.

Kathleen Ferris, a senior water policy researcher at Arizona State University, said drought is a politically murky subject. She doubts the relief funding will have any sway on the election, and even the Colorado River cuts have not risen to the level of other hot-button issues.

Campaigns historically have trouble communicating complex water policies because there are so many interest groups that have a stake, she said.

"It’s not necessarily easy to say, ‘Well, I will do this,’ which would hurt this group, or ‘I will do that,’ which would hurt another group,” said Ferris, a senior research fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “So mostly, what they say is ’I will convene stakeholders’ and ‘We will have robust discussions’ and ‘We will figure out a path.’ Well, that’s not very sexy for the electorate.”

The funding is small in the wider context of a historic megadrought. Farmers in Yuma, Arizona, are already requesting over a quarter of the funding, and projects elsewhere to convert ocean water to drinking water often cost billions.

Though projects in Nevada and Arizona may get priority, 17 states are eligible for the funding, which will be doled out through 2026.

Questions also remain about whether the one-time allocation will turn into an annual stipend. If so, experts say, other funding requests could come under scrutiny from states not reliant on the river.

Though the basin cuts will not result in immediate new restrictions, they signal that unpopular decisions about how to reduce consumption could come soon.

Nowhere have the effects of drought been as visible as in Lake Mead, the Colorado River’s largest reservoir, which supplies water to nearby Las Vegas. Residents have watched human remains and old artifacts reveal themselves as levels drop.

Lazcano, the community organizer at Somos Votantes, which endorsed Cortez Masto, brings up Las Vegas’ robust water recycling infrastructure and the $4 billion in drought relief funding while door-knocking or hosting events in Las Vegas' Latino neighborhoods.

He pitches drought relief as an environmental and economic issue — affecting jobs and opportunities next to rising gas prices, labor shortages and inflation.

“I feel like people have that surface-level understanding of these things that are happening,” he said. “Like they hear about the cuts and the money coming in, but they’re not too sure with how to take that in, and that’s where we come in. To tell them about how it is, or what these investments mean.”

The funding has earned mixed reactions from Republican candidates in Nevada.

While the inflation measure was universally vilified by the party, GOP lawmakers and candidates did not deny that drought needs urgent attention.

Adam Laxalt, who is running against Cortez Masto, has mostly stayed away from talking about drought. In an email, he said he supports efforts to address water problems in Nevada, noting that the crunch “didn’t just happen overnight.”

The Inflation Reduction Act will contribute to more inflation, and Cortez Masto should have secured funding without having to support a larger bill, he said.

Sam Peters, a Republican candidate for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District — which covers much of rural central Nevada down to the northern edge of the Las Vegas area — criticized paying farmers not to use water, saying that Democrats “throw money at it without a real solution.” He suggested desalination as a longer-term solution.

U.S. Rep Mark Amodei, Nevada’s lone Republican congressman, supported the general idea of the funding and also pointed to desalination, the technology that removes salt from ocean water and turns it into drinking water.

A $1.4 billion desalination project was proposed in California with support from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom but was rejected by a California coastal panel in May because of its cost and threat to marine organisms at the base of the food chain.

Days after the Inflation Reduction Act passed, Amodei sent out a blog post that didn’t mention drought but outlined the provisions he said would deepen the country’s economic woes.

Asked about the drought funding later, he said it was “maybe some of the least egregious stuff” in the act.

___

Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Senate Election News, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
At least 250,000 people lined up to see queen's coffin
A British official says aound a quarter of a million people joined the huge queue to see Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lying in state in London’s Westminster Hall
8:04AM ( 1 minute ago )
Drought in Western US heats up as a Senate campaign issue
The consequences of drought and efforts to funnel billions of dollars toward securing water supplies in the West are becoming larger issues in two of the most consequential races for the U.S. Senate
8:01AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Putin blasts US attempts to preserve global domination
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blasted what he described as the U.S. efforts to preserve its global domination
7:49AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
EXPLAINER: Bused, flown migrants can live in US -- for now
Republican governors have been sending more migrants released at the U.S. border with Mexico to Democratic strongholds, raising questions about their legal status, how they are lured on board buses and planes, and the cost to taxpayers
6:46AM ( 1 hour ago )
Hungary appeals for time, as EU weighs hefty fund freeze
Hungary's justice minister is urging her European Union partners to be “tolerant” after the EU’s executive branch recommended suspending billions of euros in funding to the country
5:53AM ( 2 hours ago )
Britain's Truss doesn't expect UK-US trade deal anytime soon
Prime Minister Liz Truss has kicked off her first visit to the United States as Britain’s leader with an admission that a U
1:01AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
GOP's election-year standing with independents at risk
Some independent voters who began 2022 looking to Republicans for answers have drifted back to moving toward Democrats
2:18PM ( 17 hours ago )
Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral | Live updates
Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved dogs and one of her favorite ponies greeted the late monarch’s coffin when it was brought to Windsor Castle
1:05PM ( 19 hours ago )
Center-right leader asked to form new government in Sweden
The leader of Sweden’s third largest party -- the center-right Moderates -- has formally been asked to try to form a new coalition government that could include the populist Sweden Democrats
9:19AM ( 22 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
El Salvador president re-election bid draws strong reaction
In the hours after El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced he would seek re-election despite a constitutional ban, opinion quickly divided
6:09PM ( 3 days ago )
Breaches of voting machine data raise worries for midterms
The revelation earlier this week that federal prosecutors are involved in investigations of suspected voting system breaches across the U.S. is fueling questions about the security of voting machines just two months before the midterm elections
5:58PM ( 3 days ago )
Michigan man gets 5 years in prison for role in Capitol riot
A Michigan man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack by a mob that disrupted Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory
2:26PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections
Abortion ban legislation adds to political challenge for GOP
Republican candidates have given wildly differing responses to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s plan to ban abortion nationwide at 15 weeks
11:29PM ( 5 days ago )
Election denier Bolduc wins New Hampshire GOP Senate race
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc has won New Hampshire’s Republican Senate primary and will face potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in November
2:13PM ( 5 days ago )
Conservative Bolduc wins New Hampshire's GOP Senate primary
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc has won New Hampshire’s Republican Senate primary and will face potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in November
12:05PM ( 5 days ago )
General Election News
GOP's Graham unveils nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill calling for a nationwide abortion ban
9:22PM ( 6 days ago )
Midterm primaries wrap up with fresh test of GOP's future
A staunchly conservative, retired Army general is favored to win New Hampshire’s Republican Senate nomination and face potentially vulnerable Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan
4:30PM ( 6 days ago )
Politics in air as Biden visits future Intel plant in Ohio
President Joe Biden tried to set politics aside at the Ohio groundbreaking of a new Intel computer chip facility
2:49PM ( 1 week ago )
General Senate Election News
Global shares mostly gain as investors await Fed rate hike
Global shares are mostly higher as investors await an interest rate increase by the U.S. Federal Reserve
5:09AM ( 2 hours ago )
Ukraine war thrusts German climate action into spotlight
Germany’s climate envoy says the country remains committed to phasing out coal as a source of power by 2030 even as it reactivates coal-fired power plants
3:11AM ( 4 hours ago )
WNBA players skipping Russia, choosing other places to play
Top WNBA players are finding other places to compete this winter, not wanting to go back to Russia after the arrest and conviction of Brittney Griner on drug possession charges and the country's invasion of Ukraine
2:45AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business
New Hampshire caps primaries with fresh test of GOP's future
New Hampshire Republicans are picking their party’s candidate to face off with incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in a key midterm race the GOP has long seen as winnable and which could ultimately decide control of the chamber after November
8:28PM ( 6 days ago )
Trump's PAC faces scrutiny amid intensifying legal probes
Former President Donald Trump is sitting on top of more than $115 million across several political committees
8:08AM ( 6 days ago )
GOP candidates in Georgia split over Trump's election lies
The shadow of Donald Trump's tampering with the 2020 election in Georgia lands differently for the various Republicans running for office in 2022
5:07PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
US stocks rise ahead of expected interest rate hike by Fed
Stocks closed higher on Wall Street after swaying between small gains and losses much of the day as investors brace for another big interest rate increase this week from the Federal Reserve
4:42PM ( 15 hours ago )
US stocks waver ahead of expected interest rate hike
Stocks swayed between small gains and losses on Wall Street as investors brace for another big interest rate increase this week from the Federal Reserve
2:10PM ( 17 hours ago )
Europe's central bank to use climate scores as it buys bonds
The European Central Bank says it will give corporations climate scores before it buys their bonds and intends to prioritize those doing more to reveal and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
1:01PM ( 19 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Company loses bid to recover payout for Dubai hotel fire
An insurance company that was ordered to pay more than a billion Dirhams in damages for a 2015 New Year’s Eve fire in Dubai has lost a civil lawsuit that it filed to try and recover the money
7:35AM ( 31 minutes ago )
With ceremonies over, King Charles III faces biggest task
The cannons have sounded; the bells have rung; the mourners have paid their respects
7:26AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Gunman shoots 3 at Texas fair before being shot by deputies
Authorities say a gunman shot three people, including two first responders, at the Tri-State Fair & Rodeo in Texas, before he was shot and wounded by sheriff’s deputies
7:25AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Russia ups pressure on West as Ukraine gains ground
The Kremlin says there are no prospects for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine and is giving its blessing to efforts to swiftly bring regions already captured under Russia’s complete control
7:16AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Texas sheriff investigating flights to Martha's Vineyard
A Texas sheriff has opened a criminal investigation into two flights of migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
6:59AM ( 1 hour ago )