Friday, November 20, 2015

Our view: Save the Gila while we can

The proposed diversion of the Gila River is bad for the river, bad for the wilderness that surrounds it and bad for New Mexico. At a billion dollars, it’s also too costly.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell still has time to stop this misuse of money, land and water, with Monday the deadline for her to sign an agreement with New Mexico allowing the diversion to go forward. More than 45,500 signatures have been collected on a petition to Jewell asking her to protect the river by rejecting the diversion. They’re far from alone. Businesses, poets, outdoor enthusiasts and others have been contacting Jewell to tell her to oppose this misguided project. We have made our position clear in past editorials — as the last untamed river in New Mexico, the Gila is too precious to sacrifice.

The Gila River watershed contains the nation’s first designated wilderness area, the beginning of our commitment to protecting wild country for the people. It is the last main-stem river in New Mexico without diversions or major dams. Home to more than 360 species of birds, the river also holds the most intact native fish community in the Colorado River Basin. It is irreplaceable.

As potent as those arguments are, though, New Mexico should reject this boondoggle simply on the basis of finances. Estimated to cost a billion dollars, federal funding only is paying for a portion of the water diversion project. The rest of the funding, as much as $800 million to $900 million, will come out of New Mexico’s coffers...

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