From The Albuquerque Journal (Theresa Davis):
Plans to build a diversion dam on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico have hit another snag. The Interior Department has denied a state entity an extension to receive $56 million in diversion construction funds.
The New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity still has nearly $70 million in the New Mexico Unit Fund for a Gila diversion and regional water projects. But the loss of more federal money means less infrastructure, and less water that could be diverted from the river. In 15 years, the state has spent nearly $15 million planning for a diversion.
Under the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, the CAP Entity had until the end of this month to receive a federal record of decision on environmental impact statements to obtain $56 million.
CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez and lawyer Pete Domenici Jr. visited Washington, D.C., in October to petition for an extension.
Timothy Petty, Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science, informed the state of the decision on Dec. 20.
Petty said in a letter that New Mexico’s “slow pace of progress” on the diversion plans showed a “lack of urgency” for delivering water to rural communities.
“Even today, a feasible project with necessary funding and contractual commitments has not been identified to enable project success,” he wrote. “It’s a disappointment this project, that would bring critical water supplies to rural communities in New Mexico, has faced such scrutiny and a lack of support from the State of New Mexico.”
Several alterations to the diversion plans were made as recently as July. The changes slashed project cost estimates by about $83million but also reduced the amount of water that could be diverted from the Gila.