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Beetlemania? John McCain wants to deploy bug army to battle drought
Phoenix Business Journal
September 26th, 2014
U.S. Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., is a frequent fan of troop surges and military action. But now McCain wants a new kind of troop deployment closer to home to help deal with drought conditions on the Colorado River.
McCain wants the U.S. government to deploy an army of bark beetles — in particular saltcedar beetles — to battle invasive scrub brush and trees.
Heat tolerant tamarisk trees and brush pop up in the Southwest and Colorado River basin and consume as much as 200 gallons of water per day, according to McCain.
The Arizona senator said saltcedar tamarisk trees also deposit salt in nearby top soil.
“I believe that aggressively eradicating saltcedar and subsequently replanting native vegetation is one water strategy we should accelerate now,” McCain said. “One of the more successful and cost-effective means for eradicating saltcedar has been the release of the saltcedar beetle.”
Those beetles specifically like to chow down on tamarisk trees.
McCain has written the Obama adminstration asking for an army of bark beetles to be put into action. He said eradicating the tamarisk and planting native vegetation that consumes less water could recover as much as 273 million gallons of Colorado River water annually.
California and Arizona farmers, big cities such as Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas rely on Colorado River water. The river is in the midst of 14-year long, 1,000-year drought that could have short-term and long-term impacts in the region. McCain said Colorado River deliveries to Arizona could be impacted within two years.
“The state of Arizona – in its fourteenth consecutive year of drought – is bracing for the likelihood that Colorado River water deliveries could be curtailed by 2016,” McCain said.
The Arizona Farm Bureau and Central Arizona Project support McCain’s beetle army.
““The saltcedar has been stealing water from the watershed for years and the beetle program has the potential to release nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year for the good of the West,” said Farm Bureau Government Relations Director Joe Sigg.
Bark beetles have been deployed before in Texas and other regions to help get rid of invasive trees and bushes Tamarisk are native to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. They were planted in Great Plains states in the 1930s to fight Dust Bowl conditions.