ICYMI: How Sen. Kelly Secured $4 Billion to Combat Western Drought in the Inflation Reduction Act

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly recently spoke with Bloomberg Government about how he negotiated and secured $4 billion in funding to combat historic western drought in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law.

The Kelly-secured funding can be used by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to compensate farmers who voluntarily reduce their water deliveries under short-term or multi-year agreements, as well as projects that conserve water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The Kelly-secured funding would also be available to mitigate the environmental effects of shrinking inland waterbodies like the Salton Sea and the Great Salt Lake. 

See key excerpts from his interview with Bloomberg Government:

On how Kelly persuaded Manchin:

Sen. Mark Kelly relied on numbers to persuade key Democrats this summer, including pivotal negotiator Sen. Joe Manchin, to squeeze $4 billion more into the tax, health, and climate bill to address severe drought in the West.

Kelly (D-Ariz.) and a handful of other Western senators knew they needed upwards of $5 billion in the package for drought, but the starting point in negotiations was $1 billion. The former astronaut and naval aviator had to explain to some of his colleagues that “the math just didn’t work,” he said in an interview last week.

“If you want to make some short-term and long-term deals with farmers to voluntarily cut back, and to do it in some cases for a longer period of time, I mean this becomes the arithmetic,” Kelly said. “And the arithmetic, it doesn’t add up to $1 billion.” […]

[…] Kelly regularly tracks the dwindling water levels in the Lower Colorado Basin, including in Lake Mead. That alarming data also featured prominently in the funding negotiations with non-Western senators, including Manchin.

“Mark Kelly was the one who put the big push on,” for drought money, Manchin told reporters after Tuesday’s bill signing at the White House. The West Virginia Democrat credited Kelly’s science-based presentation for convincing him to agree to the additional funding.

On the benefits of the Kelly-secured funding and looking ahead:

[…] “If we didn’t have this funding in the legislation, there’s a pretty high likelihood that Hoover Dam wouldn’t be creating any electricity in about a year and a half,” Kelly said.

The $4 billion in the climate bill is designed to be flexible, taking the form of grants, other financial assistance, and contracts to help states and tribes conserve water. Kelly said lawmakers will look to boost regular appropriations and craft other legislation to design more durable, long-term solutions to drought.

“There’s no guarantee this drought is going to end, and it’s going to be raining, and we’re going to get snowpack like we used to,” he said. 

[…] The climate bill’s impact on combating wildfire, flooding, and drought in the West will be “significant,” Kelly said. Still, it’s not an “end all, be all” to reducing emissions and protecting the planet. “We’re going to have to look for more opportunities to decarbonize our energy.”

On the need for Colorado River Basin states to come up with a workable plan:

The current Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, that basin states agreed on and Congress passed in 2019 expires in 2026. That deadline offers an opportunity to reconfigure water allotments to each state and address the problem of water evaporation resulting from climate change. “The Upper and Lower Basin states have to figure out what’s going to be workable,” said Kelly. “What we have today clearly is not.”

Read the full interview with Bloomberg Government HERE. See additional background on Kelly’s continued leadership to combat drought below:

In the Senate, Kelly has worked to protect Arizona’s water resources and secure historic investments that will better secure Arizona’s water future. Last year, Kelly crafted the drought and water infrastructure provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law specifically securing more than $8 billion to upgrade water infrastructure, $250 million to fully fund the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan which will help keep water in Lake Mead, as well as investments for water storage, water recycling, and more.

Kelly has also pushed the Department of Interior and BOR for answers and action on how they intend to ensure agreement on and participation in water conservation between the Colorado River Basin states. Recently, Kelly urged DOI to lay out options to implement drought mitigation measures in order to protect Arizona water resources and the Colorado River system. Kelly continues to hold the administration accountable to ensure it is using every tool at its disposal to protect Arizona and Western states from the impacts of drought.