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House OKs $500M bill to help water levels in Lake Mead, Powell


Sweeping legislation to provide $500 million to raise plunging water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell passed Friday in the House, despite Republican opposition over concerns for farmers and ranchers.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act combines more than 48 individual pieces of legislation, including those sponsored by Nevada lawmakers, to address severe climate issues.

The legislation authorizes spending $500 million by the Department of Interior over three years to prevent declining “critical low water elevations” in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

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Also included in the massive bill is $1.6 billion to raise firefighter pay and $2.4 billion for forestry management to prevent and combat wildfires that are ravaging California and other Western states.

The bill passed, 218-199, with Nevada’s congressional delegation voting along party lines.   

But there was a drop in the proverbial bucket this past week: Water levels at Lake Mead rose three inches after heavy monsoon rains hit the Las Vegas area.

On Sunday, the top of the lake was at 1,040.99 feet above sea level at Hoover Dam, a three-inch increase from a measurement five days ago.

Water levels have continued to decline, and Lake Mead has fallen several inches a day, including a drop of just over seven feet during the month of May.

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The Bureau of Reclamation projects the lake will fall at least another 20 feet before the end of 2022. 

Briana Joseph is the afternoon and weekend announcer at Nevada Public Radio. She hosts during national syndication from NPR. You’ll hear her voice during All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.