Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gila diversion faces deadline in D.C.

In the twilight wait for the U.S. secretary of the Interior’s decision on whether to sign the New Mexico Unit Agreement which would move forward a controversial diversion of the Gila River, thousands have signed their names to a petition circulated by environmental groups asking her to withhold her approval. Secretary Sally Jewell has a deadline of Monday to sign the document, lest it be rendered void under a timeline set by federal legislation. The deadline was included in the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, which paved the way for the partially funded, potential diversion project in the first place, allowing southwest New Mexico to take up to 14,000 acre-feet of water from the Gila and its tributaries. Cost estimates for the project have run between $400 million and $1 billion, although members of the controlling agency — the New Mexico Unit of the Central Arizona Project Entity — have said they would never approve such an expensive project. The New Mexico Unit Agreement has been the source of extensive diplomacy between the New Mexico CAP Entity, the Interstate Stream Commission and the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Reclamation. Most negotiations focused on a list of supplemental terms insisted on by Jewell. The agreement, like all documents relating to the diversion before it, has been hotly contested all the way by a group of environmentalists, locals and sportsmen. Some 54,000 of these opponents had signed a petition as of Tuesday urging Jewell not to sign the N.M. Unit Agreement...more

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