The Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is at risk of lawsuits over the Colorado River dispute

Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water rights An effort to cleanup the ruined fishing and wildlife habitat at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge has been threatened by…

The Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is at risk of lawsuits over the Colorado River dispute

Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water rights

An effort to cleanup the ruined fishing and wildlife habitat at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge has been threatened by the disagreement between the states of California and Arizona over access to water from the Colorado River.

At stake is the $8 billion in federal money that’s been earmarked for the ongoing Salton Sea cleanup project, but also billions more in river water used by the two states.

The California, Arizona, Nevada, and U.S. governments are not close to finalizing a deal to divide up the Colorado River water for environmental cleanup, prompting concern that the dispute could stall the effort and lead to lawsuits.

“The water rights issue has been the reason for the fight that we’ve had, so we’ve had to make it into an environmental issue,” said John E. M. Barry, chair of a National Wildlife Refuge System board that’s been monitoring the cleanup progress. “The environmental issue is more or less where we’re stuck.”

The dispute also underscores the national split over how to respond to what is the largest human-made man-made water body in the Western Hemisphere, but most of its people live outside its borders.

“All of the states and territories are working on this. The federal guys are at the back right now,” Barry said.

State officials worry the disagreement could prevent them from reaching a deal, particularly if federal officials back off from requirements that they share the Colorado River water with Arizona and California, where it is in abundance.

“We’re hoping there will be resolution, but if we’re not, we have to continue on and take our time with the project,” David G. Crockett, deputy director for resource planning for the Department of Interior, said in a telephone interview Monday.

State officials are working with Arizona and California to resolve their disagreements, but Barry said he’s concerned that there haven’t been enough meetings.

“There’s been

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