November 23, 2015

Udall Statement on NM Unit Agreement

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on the Secretary of the Interior's decision to further evaluate the impacts and costs of any potential New Mexico Unit Agreement to the Central Arizona Project:

"Today's decision means the Interior Department will move forward with a legally required process to establish a framework for federal participation to study the environmental cost of diverting water from the Gila River. The process sets high standards and additional requirements that will have to be met for any potential New Mexico Unit of the Central Arizona Project to move forward.

"Based on everything I've seen so far, this project simply isn't financially realistic or environmentally wise. Given federal budget constraints, funding outside the Arizona Water Settlements Act is extremely unlikely. Further, many New Mexicans are rightly concerned about the extremely high cost of this project and the damage that it could do to our thriving tourism and sporting businesses. The Gila is the last free-flowing main-stem river in New Mexico - to sacrifice it to a project that the state can't afford and that might not ever yield enough water, would be irresponsible. Those millions of dollars would be better spent to rebuild roads, bridges and the crumbling water infrastructure in communities across our state.

"Three years ago, I co-hosted New Mexico's Water Resources Research Institute's annual water conference to discuss our water challenges and brainstorm forward-thinking solutions. The conclusion reached by the experts and stakeholders who participated was that given the financial and environmental realities we face, we must address water scarcity primarily through flexible water-sharing arrangements and by advancing innovative ways to conserve water and eliminate waste. I appreciate why the state is examining its options under the Arizona Water Settlements Act but given the huge financial hurdles and environmental risks, it is time for the state to focus on forward-looking solutions."