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VIDEO: Heinrich Highlights Drought Mitigation Investment in the Rio Grande, Presses Bureau of Reclamation on Completion of Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Project, Questions U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Plans to Improve Public Safety & Wildfire Response Along the Bosque

Today, during a hearing to review the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) Budget Request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for both agencies, urged Commissioner Camille Touton of the Bureau of Reclamation to expand on the agency’s commitment to reliable water access in New Mexico, both through prioritizing repairs on the El Vado Dam and continuedinvestment in the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Project.

Additionally, Heinrich pressed Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on their plans to remove jetty jacks around the Rio Grande to improve public safety and wildfire response along the Bosque.

Heinrich Presses Reclamation Commissioner

VIDEO: U.S. Senator Heinrich Questions U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation

On drought mitigation for the Rio Grande 

Heinrich began his questioning by asking Commissioner Touton about the status of the El Vado Dam rehabilitation. The Bureau of Reclamation drained El Vado in 2021 to conduct necessary repairs, but the rehabilitation is behind schedule. This loss of water storage is a key reason that the Rio Grande ran dry through Albuquerque in 2022 and again in 2023.

Commissioner Touton responded to Heinrich, “What we are doing now is looking at how we can have a safe, reservoir restriction to be able to store as much water as possible.” 

Senator Heinrich continued by pressing Commissioner Touton, asking for a specific timeline as to when New Mexicans in the Middle Rio Grande Basin can expect Reclamation’s work on the El Vado Reservoir to be complete. Commissioner Toutonresponded to Heinrich by saying that the project would likely be completed “within the next calendar year.”

On the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Project

Heinrich reiterated his commitment to delivering for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Project, and asked that the Reclamation elaborate on why funding for the project from the agency has slowed. 

Heinrich asked, “Will the Reclamation honor its promise to provide the remaining funding for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Project so it can be completed on time?”Commissioner Touton responded, “We look to leverage additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be able to make commitments to that rural water projects and others.” 

On the removal of jetty jacks from the Bosque 

Heinrich pressed Lieutenant General Spellmon on its plans to remove jetty jacks from the Rio Grande, especially the middle stretch. Assistant Secretary of the Army Michael Connor responded, “We have done this work before in the state. Our authority and funding has limited us to the Albuquerque area. We can work with you on the additional authority and funding needed to take this more to the middle of the Rio Grande.”