Final Value Study Confirms Gila Diversion Billion Dollar Boondoggle

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For Immediate Release

November 11, 2015

Contact:  Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Conservation Coalition

575.590.7619 cell; allysonsiwik@gmail.com

 

 Final Value Study Confirms Gila Diversion Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Fatally Flawed Project Still on the Table

Silver City, NM — The Bureau of Reclamation released its final Value Planning Study that provides preliminary cost estimates of alternatives for a Gila River diversion project. The final report confirmed estimates that the Gila River diversion project is likely to cost $1B or more when including costs for operations and maintenance over the life of the project.

Despite a call by local water boosters to downsize diversion options and a demonstrated local reluctance to pay for a diversion, the ISC insisted all alternatives identified and evaluated in the Value Study would divert the maximum amount of water available under the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA).

The Value Study made it clear that all alternatives evaluated included complete build out of diversion, conveyance and storage facilities in phases to deliver water over the Continental Divide to Deming and would require environmental analysis on the entire project. The Value Study alternatives all looked at phasing, with Phase 1 construction costs for most alternatives ranging from 2-4 times the funding currently available. The only Phase 1 alternative identified that could be paid for with existing funding was exposed as not meeting water storage targets and as having questionable functionality.

“There’s no free lunch here,” said Allyson Siwik, Gila Conservation Coalition Executive Director. “This huge fatally-flawed diversion project continues to be pushed forward with all the technical, financial, and environmental problems everyone has been talking about for more than a decade. And it’s clear that local communities in southwest New Mexico will have to pay for it. When will people wake up and see that we can’t afford this project?”

Former ISC director, Norm Gaume, has been critical of the Gila River diversion, citing several fatal flaws that make the project infeasible. Because of the tight constraints of the AWSA, water available for diversion could occur less frequently than 1 in 10 years. The NM Unit will be inordinately expensive due to construction of high capacity diversion facilities that will be infrequently utilized, the absence of suitable storage reservoir sites, and the distance of conveyance.  Lining storage reservoirs to reduce seepage losses is required for the project to function, but will be hugely expensive and technically challenging given the large area and steep slopes.  The cost of water to end users could be greater than $8000/acre-foot and municipal water rates in Deming could increase more than 10 times.

Once Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signs the NM Unit Agreement by November 23, the fatally flawed project will move into the next phase of design and planning under the National Environmental Policy Act.

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