The title is not intended as a snarky line. It’s a valid question. What is Utah’s new water agency leadership and politicians thinking about Utah’s use of the Colorado River? This is particularly germane as April’s flow into Lake Powell was something like 27% of the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. May’s flow was even less—about 21%.  So just what are they thinking?

Utahns know very little about how the CRAU is being organized and what its inner workings will be. We do know the official name is Colorado River Authority of Utah (CRAU) and that it is to “protect, conserve, use, and develop Utah’s waters of the Colorado River system.” We also know that it is authorized to “develop a management plan to ensure that Utah can protect and
develop the Colorado River system and to work to ensure that Utah can live within the state’s apportionment of the Colorado River system.” (HB 297 Colorado River Amendments beginning line 1344.)

Other than these bare facts, some confusing statements from state legislators about Colorado River water, and a $9.0 million start-up budget, little is known about the CRAU.

Frustrated by this lack of information, we contacted the Public Information Officer for the Utah Division of Water Resources. We received a timely email from Gene Shawcroft, the first river commissioner appointed to the CRAU. (We believe that Mr. Shawcroft will be chair of the Authority according to HB 297 (HB 297 Colorado River Amendments beginning line 1316.))

We learned that as of June 22 the first six CRAU commissioners will be:

  • Brian Steed, Governor’s Representative
  • Todd Adams, State of Utah Area
  • Jay Mark Humphrey, Price and San Rafael Area
  • Dan Larsen, Uintah and Duchesne Area
  • Zach Renstrom, Virgin River Area
  • Gene Shawcroft, Central Utah Area

Mr. Shawcroft said that CRAU is busy hiring staff, including an Executive Director who should be named by the end of June. He also stated:

“I want to take this opportunity to tell you how important stakeholder engagement will be for this organization. Open communication from a diverse group of interested stakeholders will be the key to continued success.”

We laud this commitment to stakeholder engagement. Historically, Utah’s water policy and decision-making have been characterized by exclusion of effective stakeholder engagement. Mr. Shawcroft’s comments are a breath of fresh air.

CSU will take every opportunity to engage with the CRAU to reinforce this commitment. And we will make every effort to understand just what they are thinking!

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