WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made the following statement today after the U.S. Department of the Interior signed an agreement with the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity (CAP Entity) that initiates a process to thoroughly evaluate the full range of proposed water management alternatives for the upper region of the Gila River and examine their impacts and costs.
"Today's announcement sets out the framework for the evaluation of the Gila River Water Project and important related considerations, like the exorbitant cost to New Mexico taxpayers. With the Bureau's initial cost estimates hovering around $1 billion, and only around 10 percent of that available from federal coffers, understanding the financial realities of this potential project will be critical. I look forward to this evaluation. However, based on all the analysis to date, it is hard to imagine a dam or diversion project on the Gila River that is not irresponsibly expensive as well as destructive to other economic and resource values. In addition, serious engineering questions continue to dog this proposal.
"The Gila is the last free-flowing river in the Southwest. Its natural hydrology and gallery riparian forests make it a unique, last of its kind gem that is important to sportsmen, farmers, and tourists alike. We owe New Mexico's taxpayers cost effective, science-based solutions if we are to manage our limited water supplies in this era of drought, climate change, and constrained budgets. Damming or diverting the Gila River simply does not meet that standard. I believe that now would be a good time for the state to put forward a more fiscally responsible alternative.
"I encourage the public and all stakeholders to stay engaged on this issue and continue to share their opinions, concerns, and additional information with my office. "