Invests remaining $80 million from failed Gila River diversion into needed water infrastructure

Santa Fe, N.M. – Legislation securing critical water supplies and creating needed jobs in rural Southwest New Mexico passed the Senate Conservation Committee today. 

Sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo), Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), and Senator Siah Correa Hemphill (D-Silver City), House Bill 200 invests the $80 million remaining from the failed Gila River diversion project into water infrastructure projects for Southwest New Mexico. The bill designates the Water Trust Board as the entity to advise the Interstate Stream Commission going forward on how to allocate these dollars left in the New Mexico Unit Fund. It also prohibits these remaining funds from being spent on any Gila River diversion efforts. 

Currently, New Mexico’s Central Arizona Project (CAP) has advised on usage of the New Mexico Unit Fund. The group has continued to focus on using these dollars in pursuit of a Gila River diversion, which has repeatedly proved unsuccessful. 

“New Mexico has wasted over 15 years and $15 million in a failed effort to divert the Gila River,” said Rep. McQueen. “House Bill 200 ensures that instead of continuing to waste money on a mirage, the remaining funds will be invested in much-needed water infrastructure projects that will provide jobs, economic stimulus, and tangible benefits to the people of southwest New Mexico.”

“By shifting discretion of these millions of dollars to the Water Trust Board, we will utilize the group’s existing technical expertise and organizational infrastructure to get badly-needed dollars into Southwest New Mexico communities,” said Rep. Small. “New Mexico is facing an ongoing drought that has devastating consequences for our rural communities; we must act now to secure long-term water supplies in rural areas that desperately need it, rather than continuing to chase an impossible and expensive dream.”

HB 200 is supported by the Gila Conservation Coalition, Gila Resources Information Project, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, New Mexico Wild, Conservation Voters New Mexico, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Nuestra Tierra, Audubon New Mexico, Trout Unlimited, and Amigos Bravo.  

After passing the Senate Conservation Committee with a 6-3 vote, HB 200 will now move to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure has already passed the House of Representatives.  

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.

 - NMDP

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