Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Gila diversion pact signed in D.C.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday afternoon that Secretary Sally Jewell signed the New Mexico Unit Agreement with the New Mexico Unit of the Central Arizona Project Entity, late in the day on the deadline date set forth by the Arizona Water Settlements Act. The executed agreement opens the door for a series of environmental reviews of a potential diversion of the Gila River. In a release, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Jennifer Gimbel stressed that signing the agreement does not ensure a diversion, but greenlights the upcoming National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and Historic Preservation Act review processes. These must be successfully completed before any final project could be approved. Those processes will not begin until the N.M. CAP Entity develops a 30 percent design of a proposed project. N.M. CAP Entity Chair Darr Shannon responded to the big news, saying simply, “The New Mexico CAP Entity will continue to move forward with diligence and integrity regarding the job we have before us.” Monday’s action comes after a lengthy period of negotiations between the N.M. CAP Entity — following their formation in August — and Interior regarding a list of supplemental terms required by Jewell, outlining the federal standards the project must meet and placing more responsibility on the CAP Entity. It also comes after the delivery of a petition signed by 5,400 opponents to a diversion, urging Jewell to not sign the agreement. Some of those opponents, while disappointed with the Interior secretary’s decision on Monday, were heartened by the importance placed on the upcoming environmental measures in the release...more