For Immediate Release
March 14, 2017
Allyson Siwik, Executive Director
575.538.8078 office; 575.590.7619 cell
SB 340 Temporarily Tabled in Senate Finance
ISC Admits It Has No Feasible Gila Project
Santa Fe, NM –Senate Bill 340, sponsored by Senators Morales, Wirth and Rue, was temporarily tabled yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill would make further Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) spending for NM Unit permitting or implementation contingent upon providing the following information to the legislature: (1) demonstrate that the proposed NM Unit project is technically feasible, (2) quantify the amount of water the project could produce and who would use it, and (3) provide an engineering estimate of the project’s cost and a plan to pay for it.
“In its bill analysis and in repeated testimony, the ISC has asserted that the time it would take for the ISC to produce answers to the questions in SB 340 would cause New Mexico to miss the December 2019 federal deadline for a Gila Diversion project,” said Gila Conservation Coalition Executive Director Allyson Siwik. “In other words,” Ms. Siwik continued, “the ISC is admitting it cannot now answer the basic questions posed by the bill.”
“What this means is the ISC cannot show the current Gila Diversion proposal is technically feasible, how much water it could produce, who would use it, how much it would cost, and how they would pay for it,” stated Todd Schulke, Senior Staff for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This shocking admission calls into question the competence of the ISC and suggests the $6 million it has spent on studies and meetings has been wasted,” Mr. Schulke concluded.
In February 23, 2017 testimony before the Senate Conservation Committee, former ISC Director Norm Gaume stated that the questions posed by SB 340 are elementary and should be the starting point for any water planning exercise.
The ISC and the NM CAP Entity (CAPE) have looked unsuccessfully for a viable diversion and storage project on the Gila River–despite spending over $11 million to date ($6 million for studies, meetings and non-diversion projects and the rest for permitting) of the federal money provided by the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA). They have not yet estimated the yield of new water, a topic described by a May 2014 independent engineering review for the ISC as one of three “serious technical challenges or potential fatal flaws.” Worse, the ISC has given lip service to cost-effective non-diversion/conservation projects; they have given only small grants and hobbled almost all the projects with onerous matching fund requirements. Yet, the ISC has estimated that it will spend $20 million from the NM Unit Fund on NM Unit federal permitting.