Latest: Gila River diversion inches forward

The project will start environment reviews, but it's far from a done deal.

  • Gila River

    Brett Walton/Circle of Blue

For over a decade, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission has pushed a plan to build a large water diversion and storage project on the upper reaches of the Gila River. Under the 2004 Arizona Water Settlement Act, New Mexico has the right to develop 14,000 acre-feet of the river’s water. Proponents say the project would save a drought-prone region, while critics call it a billion-dollar boondoggle that would destroy one of the Southwest’s last remaining wild rivers (“On New Mexico’s Gila River, a contentious diversion gets the go-ahead,” HCN, 5/25/15).

On Nov. 23, the diversion proposal took another step forward, when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed an agreement with New Mexico water managers. The decision triggers a federal environmental review, but the project is by no means a done deal. Instead, it guarantees another round of extensive studies before the 2019 deadline, when the government must approve or reject the project — no doubt fueling an intense water-management battle for years to come.

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