Monday, February 22, 2010

NM panel mulls Arizona Water Settlement Act

A panel discussion on the basics of the Arizona Water Settlement Act revealed that opinions on the topic are as fluid as the Gila River itself. The discussion, held Thursday at Western New Mexico University's Global Resource Center Auditorium, featured panelists Peter White, staff attorney for the New Mexico State Engineer's Office for 27 years; Charles "Tink" Jackson, district manager for the State Engineer's Office in Deming; Allyson Siwik, executive director of the Gila Conservation Coalition; Hugh B. McKeen, Catron County rancher and commissioner; and Anthony Gutierrez, Grant County planner. The Arizona Water Settlement Act is the culmination of legislative battles that have raged for more than 50 years between California, Arizona and New Mexico over water rights and entitlements. It also will impact how and how much water southwestern New Mexico could use in the future. The Act allocates some $66 million for any water utilization project that meets a water supply demand in southwest New Mexico. The spectrum for proposed projects, according to the Act, runs the gamut from infrastructure, conservation/water demand management projects to educational campaigns. There is another $128 million available for construction of a water development project to divert and consume 14,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Gila River and its tributary, the San Francisco. A "stakeholders" group that includes a number of representatives from local, state and federal agencies as well as private interests will make the decision on what projects might be more

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