Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 357
Summary: Sponsored by Representatives Rudy Martinez and Nathan Small, HB 357 allocates $72 million of the NM Unit Fund to implement alternatives that the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) finds will use available water resources to meet existing or future water supply demands in southwest New Mexico. Projects funded would include non-diversion projects that are already approved by the ISC but are underfunded, and projects that are included in infrastructure capital improvement plans approved by local governments to deliver water supplies to public drinking water systems. It also amends the NM Unit Fund Act (created in 2011) to prohibit the ISC from spending NM Unit Funds to pay for administrative or operating expenses of a political subdivision of the state or the NM Central Arizona Project entity.
History: $16 million in state and federal funds have been spent over the last 15 year on the NM Unit of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), or the Gila River Diversion. Delays from the CAP entity caused the Bureau of Reclamation to miss the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) December 2019 deadline to complete an environmental Impact report, and the Dept. of the Interior denied a request for an extension. Therefore, $56 million in funding planned for the Gila Diversion is no longer available. In the process, NM CAP obstructed funding for water projects that would benefit 60K people in southwest NM, including the Grant County Regional Water Supply project that would provide drinking water to low-income communities in Hurley, Bayard, and Hanover.
Why This Bill is Good for New Mexico
- HB 357 would fund priority water projects to provide safe drinking water for 60,000 people in the four counties of southwest New Mexico: Grant, Luna, Catron, and Hidalgo.
- The bill would prohibit NM Unit Funds from going to the Central Arizona Project, a project that spent 15 years and $16 million in state funding without identifying a feasible or affordable water project, but instead focused on the Gila Diversion project, which was opposed by every environmental organization and most local municipalities.
- The Gila River is the last free-flowing river in New Mexico and is home to seven threatened or endangered species. It is proposed for long-term protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. This bill directs funding to water solutions that do not impact the Gila River.
- Federal funds would be freed up to be spent on any project in SW New Mexico that meets a water supply demand as determined by local municipalities, not the CAP.
- Funding would be available for community water projects that will meet the water needs of southwest NM far into the future at a cost far lower––actual cost and environmental cost––than the Gila Diversion.
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Amigos Bravos
- McCune Charitable Foundation
- Fund for Wild Nature
- New Mexico Community Foundation
- New Mexico Humanities Council
- Kenney Foundation
- Sierra Club
- Wild Earth Guardians