Department of Interior Signs New Mexico Unit Agreement
Today the Department of Interior signed off on the NM Unit Agreement. The action moves the Gila River diversion into the next phase of environmental and financial feasibility assessment.
Significant gains were made through the supplemental terms that will increase accountability and hopefully lead to a robust environmental analysis of the proposed diversion. Some of the important gains include financial feasibility and accountability requirements, making it clear that designs must be up to federal standards, clarifying that less money may be available than previously understood, and that the full range of environmental compliance is necessary, including assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Historic Preservation Act. If the environmental compliance process is honest it’s highly unlikely that a diversion would be built due to huge costs, technical infeasibility, and damage to the river and the seven endangered species that depend on it. Finally, the supplemental terms make it clear that the Secretary of Interior does not have to choose an alternative that harms the environment even if the state of NM and the NM CAP Entity wants her to.
“People from all over the country have made their voices heard. They don’t want a Gila River diversion project that we can’t afford, that won’t efficiently meet our water needs, and will damage New Mexico’s last free-flowing river,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of the GilaConservation Coalition.
“The Gila River diversion process has been riddled with secrecy, bad judgment, and waste. The eyes of the nation are looking on Secretary Sally Jewell to ensure an honest and rigorous environmental review and to ultimately do the right thing – protect the Gila River forever,” said Todd Schulke, cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity.