Here’s the release from Wild Earth Guardians (Samantha Ruscavage-Barz):
Federal and local water managers, pueblos, and an environmental group finalized an agreement recently with City of Rio Rancho to protect a living Rio Grande and resolve objections to fourteen transfers of water from downstream farm uses to upstream municipal purposes. The city agreed to dedicate a portion of its pre-1907 water rights acquired through water transfers from farms over the years to bolster river flows and to provide funding to and support habitat restoration efforts along the river. Parties to the agreement include the City of Rio Rancho, Pueblo of Isleta, Pueblo of Santa Ana, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and WildEarth Guardians.
“This agreement recognizes the responsibility we all have to protect a living Rio Grande,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, Managing Attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “A healthy river is key for people and wildlife and this accord helps ensure, not only that these transfers will not negatively impact flows in the river, but goes far beyond that to helping restore a living river for future generations.”
The deal crafted brings together key players in undertaking strategic restoration of flows and critical habitat along the river. The city committed to donating a minimum of 2,500 acre-feet (815 million gallons) of water per year to the State’s strategic water reserve to support flows in the Rio Grande solely for the benefit of riverine habitat, the Bosque, and endangered species recovery. An acre-foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water and is enough to supply a family of four for one year. The parties will work together to deliver this water to restore flows to the Isleta reach of the Rio Grande—from just south of Albuquerque to just north of Socorro—at strategic time, places and amounts to benefit the river ecosystem.
Further, the parties agreed to cooperatively work to fund, design, and, construct restoration projects along the Rio Grande that would also benefit the river ecosystem and imperiled species. The City and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District will provide initial funding for the yet to be determined projects that will benefits lands adjacent to the City and the Pueblo of Santa Ana initially. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will provide staff resources and pursue matching funding opportunities for the identified restoration projects.
The parties to the agreement also committed to undertake cooperative efforts to address challenges facing the river, to ensure long-term water planning, and to reform state water policy.