Breaking News: Department of Interior denies extension for Gila River diversion

For Immediate Release

December 20, 2019

Contact: Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Conservation Coalition

575.590.7619 cell;

Department of Interior denies request for extension of Gila diversion

NM CAP Entity loses access to $50 million to build harmful project

On Friday, the Department of Interior denied the NM CAP Entity’s request for an extension of the deadline for a Record of Decision on the Gila River diversion, cutting off access to more than $50 million in construction funding for the project that would harm New Mexico’s last wild river and take money away from local communities with critical water supply needs.

The letter from the Department of Interior states “The slow pace of progress by the State since the passage of the Act shows a lack of urgency and priority by the State for delivering water supplies to rural communities that could be served by the project. Even today, a feasible project with necessary funding and contractual commitments has not been identified to enable project success. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that due to the State’s failure to make progress, an extension of the deadline identified in Section 212(i) of the Act will not be granted.”

“This is great news,” said Todd Schulke, Senior Staff with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Planning for a Gila River diversion under the Arizona Water Settlements Act has gone on for 15 years and wasted $15 million without producing plans for a viable project.  It’s well past time to move on and focus our attention and the tens of millions of dollars in AWSA funding on priority community water projects that can bring real water security to everyone in southwest New Mexico.”

Senator Martin Heinrich, Senator Tom Udall, and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham all have supported protection of the Gila River and use of AWSA funding on cost-effective, non-diversion projects.  Additionally, they opposed an extension of the AWSA deadline for the diversion.  

“We really appreciate the hard work of our senators and Governor Lujan Grisham to protect the Gila River. What a great holiday gift this is to people who care about the Gila!” stated Allyson Siwik, director of the Gila Conservation Coalition.