McCain now says Western water pact should stand
DENVER, Collorado ” Sen. John McCain has backed away from his comment last week that a key water agreement among seven Western states should be “renegotiated over time” and now says the deal should not be reworked.
The Republican presidential candidate said Wednesday he supports continuing talks on the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which allocates the river’s water, but said “I do not advocate renegotiation of the compact.”
McCain told the Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain last week that the compact “obviously needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties.”
The Colorado is one of the most important water sources in the West, and McCain’s comments drew harsh criticism from Western Democrats. They said renegotiating now would be foolish because a 2007 agreement among the compact states eased tensions caused by a long-term drought.
Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said McCain’s proposal “is absolutely wrong and would only happen over my dead body.”
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, said Wednesday she hoped McCain misspoke in his original comments “because he obviously doesn’t know that we actually went in and revised that compact and signed that agreement” in 2007.
“I think he needs to be briefed on what’s actually happening with the Colorado River,” she said.
Even the Colorado Republican Party chairman, Dick Wadhams, said McCain’s statement was wrong and could cost him votes.
In a letter to Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard Wednesday, McCain said, “My recent remarks may have been mistakenly construed as a call to rescind the Colorado River Compact and commence negotiations for new water allocations.”
He seemed to hold open the possibility of future shifts in water use, however, saying his approach is “mindful of potential technological developments that could potentially reduce water demands in certain areas.”
McCain said he advocates cooperation and dialogue among the seven states.
The Colorado River Compact covers Arizona, McCain’s home state, along with California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Mexico is also guaranteed a share of the river by treaty.