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Utah’s Herbert presses Obama for drought help for the West

First Published Feb 24 2014 02:42 pm • Last Updated Feb 28 2014 06:45 pm

Washington • Gov. Gary Herbert pressed President Barack Obama on Monday to help the Western United States deal with another drought season that could harm farmers, businesses and cities this summer.

Herbert met with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and several Cabinet members as part of a delegation of governors from the across the country. For Herbert, water was the No. 1 issue.

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He told Obama that the state needed more funding for completing the Central Utah Project, which collects and stores water for the Wasatch Front, though there were no guarantees that flowed from the White House.

"There was nothing like, ‘hey, we’re going to fix the drought; we’re going to make sure we seed the clouds and we’ll have more rainfall.’ It wasn’t that," Herbert said. "It was a matter of, ‘whether you believe in climate change or not, we’re going to have less water, less snowpack so you better prepare for it.’"

Herbert, who chairs the Western Governors Association, said his group would help coordinate needs for the states affected by drought and work with the Obama administration to find solutions, even if there is no magic bullet to douse the arid West.

"All the states need to pull together," Herbert said. "Clearly there’s not going to be as much water going around."

California is heading into one of the worst drought seasons in nearly a century and Nevada isn’t faring much better. Utah’s snowpack, as of earlier this month, was at 75 percent of normal, as compared to 92 percent a year before. The seasonal accumulation is at only 72 percent of average, according to a recent report on Utah’s water outlook.

"We’re certainly not healthy when it comes to water but we’re not as bad off as these other states," Herbert said.

The WGA is also going to look at long-term solutions for water shortages, an issue that Obama addressed recently in visiting California.

"The truth of the matter is that this is going to be a very challenging situation this year, and frankly, the trend lines are such where it’s going to be a challenging situation for some time to come," Obama said in mid-February.

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