I wanted to be sure you saw the op-ed I wrote in the Silver City Daily Press about why it's time for New Mexico to move on from the broken process that led to costly dam and diversion proposals for the upper Gila River. After the U.S. Department of the Interior's decision in December to deny New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity's request for an extension on its proposals, we have a real opportunity to use our state's remaining federal dollars on water projects that will benefit communities in all four counties in southwestern New Mexico.
Please continue to write to me about this and other issues you care about, and contact my office if I can ever be of assistance to you and your family.
United States Senator
Time to Hit the Reset Button on the Gila
By U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
At the end of last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior provided southwestern New Mexico with a chance to step back and re-evaluate how our state's remaining money from the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) should be put to use.
When it turned down the New Mexico Central Arizona Project (CAP) Entity's request for an extension on its proposals to dam or divert the Gila River, the Interior Department gave us all a fresh start and the opportunity to change course. Instead of throwing any more taxpayer dollars at further studies of costly dam or diversion projects on the upper Gila River, we should put the remaining federal dollars to work on shovel-ready projects that will benefit large numbers of New Mexicans.
After studying proposals for 15 years and after spending $15 million that we can't get back, no dam or diversion proposals the CAP Entity put forward in all these years has proven to be workable or reflective of the broader community's needs. Over those years, key local stakeholders like Grant County and Silver City walked away from this broken process.
But now we have a chance to invite everyone back to the table and forge a new path forward. This time we should prioritize projects that will deliver the best value and most water to the most New Mexicans. That means it's time for pragmatic conservation and efficiency projects to replace the dogma of dams and diversion.
Better, data-driven conservation alternatives exist for our remaining funds. There are specific projects in all four counties that can use the AWSA funding-Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna-that would help us improve our water infrastructure.
Projects like watershed restoration, irrigation upgrades, water meter replacement, efficiency improvements, the re-lining and piping of ditches may not sound grand or exciting. But they would do far more to sustain future water needs in southwestern New Mexico than a dam or diversion-all without doing irreparable damage to the ecosystems of the Gila-San Francisco watershed.
It's time to move forward, bring everyone back together, and put the rest of our federal money from the AWSA to work on more realistic and practical water infrastructure projects that we know will work.