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The lifeblood of the Southwest is losing its flow
The American Southwest as we know it today would not exist without the Colorado River. Spanning 1,450 miles through the region, the river irrigates farms, creates hydro-power, provides drinking water to millions and is a source of fun and beauty in federally-recognized recreation areas and parks along the route.
We couldnt inhabit the Southwest, with its large areas of desert, without a big river running through the middle of it,according to to the author of a two-year-old report which found that the river is responsible for $1.4 trillion worth of economic activity.
All of which is to say, government agencies need to act fast if they want to preserve the economy of the Southwest. New research from the University of Arizona and Colorado State University shows that warming temperatures are causing the Colorado River to shrink.
A 21st-Century Decline
In the 21st century, from 2000 through 2014, the rivers flow reached only 81 percent of its 20th century average, the researchers found. They attributed that change in flow to warming temperatures, saying this is the first study of its kind to trace a direct link between global warming and the decreased Colorado River flow.
"The future of Colorado River is far less rosy than other recent assessments have portrayed, co-author Bradly Udall told ScienceDaily. A clear message to water managers is that they need to plan for significantly lower river flows."
Not that previous assessments of the Colorado River have actually been rosy. A longtime drought has diminished water in the region since 2000. Government officials and researchers have warned that the agriculture industry will need to dramatically cut back on its water usage in the years to come as a result. And the Bureau of Reclamation this month forecast that there is a 34 percent chance the river will not be able to fulfill the needs of all the states depending on it in 2018.
But the drought has only accounted for two-thirds of the rivers decline, according to the latest research from the Colorado and Arizona researchers. The remaining third of the loss, they say, is literally caused by climate change.
Warmer temperatures have been causing the moisture in the river basins waterways to evaporate, according to their research. The findings mean that even an end to the drought may not restore the river to previous levels. We cant say with any certainty that precipitation is going to increase and come to our rescue, Udall explained in another interview.
Conservationists sue to prevent drilling
Yet even as farmers, the real estate industry, and consumers anticipate cutbacks, conservationists worry that other industries may want to build new infrastructure along the Colorado River Basin and get their share.The Bureau of Land Managements resource management plans currently allow for oil and gas drilling in the Colorado Basin area.
Last fall, the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue the BLM if the agency would not promise to block all new oil and gas development in the upper basin of the river.Part of the concern, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Wendy Park tells ConsumerAffairs, is that fracking or drilling in the basin would require companies to use tremendous amounts of water, water she worries would likely come from the Colorado River.
But there have been some hopeful developments. Since being threatened with thesuit, the BLM has agreed to do a new evaluation into the effects of industry in the region, called a programmatic biological opinion, which Park anticipates will be ready in the spring.
Officials charge that the defendants encouraged students to lie on federal aid forms
The owner of a for-profit college chain has been ordered to pay $22 million and will face prison time after defrauding the federal government and submitting false information to acquire federal aid. Now defunct FastTrain College, which operated seven campuses across the state of Florida, was charged with processing numerous unqualified students in order to collect money from the government.
The complaint states that FastTrain, and its owner Alejandro Amor encouraged(ed) students to lie on their individual loan applications in order to appear to be more attractive loan candidates. . . FastTrain then intentionally submits numerous false individual claims to the government via student loan applications.
Federal prosecutors explain that FastTrain aggressively lied on federal forms and pushed through many false applications, sometimes by assuming the identities of students who were illiterate or unable to fill out the forms themselves.
FastTrain also completes loan paperwork on behalf of illiterate students, and unlawfully assumes these students identities when signing on their behalf. FastTrain submits these false applications to game the system, with which it is very familiar, to have students appear to be eligible, or more attractive loan candidates to obtain Pell grants and other assistance. Through these practices, FastTrain is committing a fraud on the government, the suit reads.
Abhorrent and far-reaching scheme
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke submitted a final judgment on February 15 that specified the payment of12 million in damages and $10 million in penalties. The owner also facedadditional criminal charges of conspiracy to steal government funds and 12 counts of theft of government. In November, 2015, he was sentenced to 97 months in prison.
Cooke stated that students caught up in the scam were especially vulnerable, and were often just looking for a way to obtain a decent-paying job without havingeducational credentials.
Realizing there are few jobs one can obtain without a high-school diploma or equivalent degree, they turned to FastTrain, hoping to learn marketable skills to improve their chances of making a decent living. FastTrain aggressively recruited these students, and then used fraud to make the government think they were eligible for federal aid and loans, she said.
As a result of Amors scheme, Cooke concludes that many students ended up carrying debt that will be enormously difficult to pay off. The effects of Amors fraudulent acts are thus abhorrent and far-reaching, she concluded.