Breaking: ISC votes to end Gila diversion project

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June 18, 2020

Contact:          Allyson Siwik, Executive Director

                        Gila Conservation Coalition

                        575.590.7619 cell

New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Votes to End Work

on the Gila River Diversion

The Gila Conservation Coalition would like to thank the Interstate Stream Commission for its vote this morning to end work on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Gila River diversion project. This effectively ends the 15-year battle over the future of the Gila River. 

Additionally, we would like to thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Lt. Governor Howie Morales, Senator Martin Heinrich and Senator Tom Udall for their strong leadership in ensuring fiscally responsible use of Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) funding to meet the water needs of thousands of people in southwest New Mexico. 

The ISC voted 7-2 to end the Gila diversion Environmental Impact Statement process.  In a separate decision, the Commission tabled the vote regarding the future role of the NM CAP Entity in using the $70 million in AWSA funding to improve water security in Grant, Luna, Hidalgo and Catron counties.

“For the past 15 years, the diversion planning process has fumbled along and spent a lot of money to get to the inevitable conclusion that the Gila diversion was not going to work. Now it’s time for the ISC in collaboration with local communities to step forward and take responsibility for efficient and effective use of the remaining funds to secure a resilient future water supply for everyone in southwest NM,” stated Allyson Siwik, Gila Conservation Coalition Executive Director.

“Two birds, two snakes, two fish, and a frog, the endangered species on the Gila River, are breathing a sigh of relief after the ISC’s amazing decision to finally end work on the Gila Diversion” said Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision bodes well for all the wildlife and the river forest that makes the Gila so beloved to the many of us that spend time along the river or those that just feel better knowing places like the Gila are still there,” added Schulke.

“I’m grateful for today’s outcome and many political leaders and citizens who led the way to it.  It’s an encouraging sign that we New Mexicans can face our water problems rationally, based on facts and science,” stated former ISC director and Gila River champion Norm Gaume.

“We look forward to working with the Interstate Stream Commission as it develops its own process to consider allocations from the NM Unit fund for the benefit of southwest New Mexico,” stated Donna Steven, Executive Director of the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance.

There are millions of dollars in priority water projects that need funding now in order to supply clean, reliable water to thousands of people throughout southwest New Mexico. Funding these projects with AWSA funds will strengthen the resiliency of local water supplies. 

The available $70 million in AWSA funding could be used on projects such as the following: 

—         14,605 Deming residents could benefit from projects seeking funds for well upgrades ($2.2M), effluent reuse ($1.8M), and water system line replacement/repair ($1M); 

—         2,797 Lordsburg residents could benefit from projects seeking funds for drinking water treatment to remove fluoride ($3.1M) and rehab/drill new wells ($10.5M);

—         26,000 residents of Central Grant County could benefit from completion of the Grant County Regional Water Supply Project ($15M);

—         20,000 residents of Silver City and area water associations serviced by Silver City’s water system could benefit from new wells; well, water line, and storage tank replacement/improvements; and effluent reuse improvements ($17.9M).