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Sen. Kelly tours border wall near Yuma, provides construction update and talks drought

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona speaks to reporters at the border fence near Yuma on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Lisa Sturgis/KAWC
U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona speaks to reporters at the border fence near Yuma on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly says the Department of Homeland Security should begin talking to contractors soon about filling the gaps in the border wall here in Yuma County.

“As you can see there's four major ones here and the administration and DHS after a long process of working with the administration, we were able to get these closed,” Sen. Kelly told reporters following a tour of one the open sections.

Kelly says closing the gaps will make Border Patrol agents’ jobs easier by making it harder to enter the U.S. illegally.

He says the bid process should begin in the next few weeks.

“I think in about a week or two they're going to have contractors come and look at what the work is and then they will make their proposals, how do they intend to do this work and what it's going to cost,” the senator said.

Water and the historic drought facing the West is another top-of-mind issue for Yuma County.

Last week a group of farmers and agricultural leaders told Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs they can't even plan for planting because they don’t know how much water they’ll be allotted.

That’s up to the federal government, with a decision expected soon.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion to specifically address the western drought.

Much of the funding focuses on preserving Lake Mead and the power turbines it feeds, although Kelly says that ultimately preserves the Colorado River.

"We've got to find about two-to-four-million-acre feet of water to leave in Lake Mead over the next year and a half or so, and if we don't, we risk it getting below about 950 feet above sea level, and that's mid-power pool,” he said.

“It's not going to generate any electricity and soon after that it's going to be a what's called dead pool and no water is going to come into the Colorado River," he said. "We can't allow that to happen.”

But Kelly admits, solutions are neither simple nor readily available.

"We only get 2.8-million-acre feet of water from the Colorado River period, so......Think about that for a second - 2.8 million and we've got to find 2-to-4-million-acre feet. California gets 4.4 million. The states right now are working together to try to come up with a plan.”

The Senator says mistakes of the past put us in this position today.

“In 1960’s, part of the deal was, when we built the Central Arizona project, we were supposed to add more water to the Colorado River system,” he said.

“We knew then that 10 million acre feet of water off the Colorado was not going to be enough and that augmentation never happened,” the senator said.

Kelly says long-term solutions are out there, but it’s going to take time to find and implement the right ones.

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