Kamala Harris to visit Lake Mead to discuss drought and climate change
Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday will highlight the problems caused by the West’s drought as she visits Lake Mead and makes the case for the Biden administration’s infrastructure and climate change proposals, which have stalled in Congress.
Harris will be briefed by Bureau of Reclamation officials about elevation levels at the Nevada reservoir that supplies drinking water to 25 million people in the American West and Mexico, White House officials said Sunday.
After a tour, the vice president will make remarks and meet with officials from the Interior Department and other federal and state agencies, including the Southern Nevada Water Authority. She will be joined by Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, all Nevada Democrats.
Water levels at Lake Mead — created in the 1930s by the damming of the Colorado River — have fallen to record lows. In August, federal officials declared the first-ever water shortage in the Colorado River. As a result, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will receive less water than normal next year amid a drought gripping much of the West.
In September, the Bureau of Reclamation released projections showing an even worse outlook for the river.
Against this backdrop, the vice president is expected to promote President Biden’s big domestic policy agenda — originally billed at $3.5 trillion — for which Democrats are struggling to win moderates’ support.
Lake Mead is at the lowest water levels in its 85-year history. Federal officials who manage the lake expect to soon declare a water shortage.
That agenda includes climate provisions that the Biden administration says would make the U.S. more resilient amid the effects of climate change. Key elements include imposing new emissions restrictions through a federal clean-energy requirement and providing tax breaks for the electric vehicles industry.
Harris will also emphasize that climate change is poised to make extreme weather events such as droughts and heat waves more frequent, expensive and harmful, White House officials said.
Officials said Harris will discuss the separate $1-trillion public works infrastructure deal that passed the Senate months ago and is awaiting House approval. That package contains about $8 billion for Western water projects.
Some of the ways the plan would combat the effects of drought include investments in desalination technology that makes seawater usable, fortifying rural water infrastructure and building more wastewater-recycling technology to help stretch existing supplies.
Key reservoirs on the Colorado River desperately need water. Let’s start building that pipeline from the Mississippi River.
Western states experienced a dangerously hot summer that resulted in hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and brought scores of record-breaking wildfires intensified by drought.
Officials said Harris will also discuss how water shortages affect farmers, the nation’s food supply and the economy.
The Biden administration has said its infrastructure spending plans would create millions of jobs in repairing water infrastructure, restoring watersheds and wetlands, and increasing water efficiency.
Amid a lack of support from some Democrats, Biden said Friday that he would rather cut the duration of some programs in the expansive social services and climate change package than strike out entire sections.
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