Renegotiate the Colorado River Compact? McCain says ‘never mind’

So apparently that part about how John McCain called for a renegotiation of the Colorado River Compact — or as he put it, “the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties …” Well, turns out those words were “mistakenly construed.” Nah, the Republican presidential candidate doesn’t really want to alienate Colorado voters with such a radical proposition. No, instead McCain wants us to move along. As if, there’s nothing to see here, folks.

Last week the GOP presidential candidate sparked a firestorm in Colorado when he was quoted in the Pueblo Chieftain, regarding the 85-year-old Colorado River Compact, the guiding document for how water is distributed from the Colorado to seven Western states:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties. I think that there’s a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource.”


To put it mildly, the notion went over like a lead water balloon, with — as preeminent water blogger John Orr noted in the Colorado Independent — politicians as varied as Republican Bob Schaffer and Democrat Ken Salazar vowing to fight to the death.

Late Wednesday, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that McCain sent a letter to Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, saying that his comments were “mistakenly construed.”

“Let me be clear that I do not advocate renegotiation of the Compact,” McCain wrote. “I support constructive, continuing cooperation and dialogue among the states and the water users in a manner that is fully consistent with the Compact … A federally driven scheme to reopen the Compact would run afoul of my long held respect for the importance of state law and local prerogatives in the allocation of water resources.”

The Gazette noted that Tom Kise, McCain spokesman in Colorado, said that the letter speaks for itself, and that he had no further comment.

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