New Mexico Trout joined with several other conservation organizations as a signatory to a letter to Gov Susana Martinez asking her to oppose the controversial Gila River diversion project in favor of long-term solutions that protect rivers.
The Interstate Stream Commission is studying engineering, cost and environmental impact of 16 alternative projects to balance protection of fish and wildlife habitat while complying with the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA). These studies are intended to inform the state’s 2014 decision on whether or not to use Gila River water under the AWSA. The AWSA is a congressionally approved bill intended to meet water supply demands in Southwest New Mexico either through the use of up to 14,000 acre-feet per year of water from the Gila River or through non-diversion water projects.
In part the letter argued that:
“The proposed Gila diversion project is expensive and will require that New Mexico taxpayers and water users foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs, payments to Arizona for using the water, and maintaining extensive infrastructure. As forecasts continue to warn of long-term drought, a diversion project could be rendered useless if river flows fall below levels defined by the AWSA. The good news is that there are cost-effective measures that can meet southwest New Mexico’s future water needs while leaving the Gila River intact, therefore maintaining the quality of this premier outdoor recreation destination and supporting local economies dependent upon river-related recreation. New Mexico should not divert water from the Gila River. On behalf of 20,000 sportsmen and sportswomen in New Mexico and over 150,000 nationally, we believe that a diversion project is too expensive and will severely limit the outdoor recreation opportunities currently available on the Gila River. We respectfully request your support of cost-effective, non-diversion alternatives to meet the long-term water needs of the state.”