FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: February 12, 2013
Contact: Allyson Siwik, Executive Director
Gila Conservation Coalition
575.538.8078 office; 575.590.7619 cell
Response to Senate Finance Committee and Senate Conservation Committee Press Conference on Water Legislation
Silver City, NM – The Chair of the Senate Conservation Committee, Senator Peter Wirth, and the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator John Arthur Smith, held a press conference this morning at the Roundhouse on water issues and current related legislation that include controversial proposals like piping Gila River water across the Continental Divide to Las Cruces and perhaps even on to Texas.
“Water issues pose significant challenges for the state of New Mexico,” stated Gila Conservation Coalition Chairman, M.H. “Dutch” Salmon. “However, we can’t sacrifice healthy rivers that contribute to New Mexico’s significant outdoor recreation economy (47,000 jobs and $3.8 billion annually) for speculative growth that would destroy places that New Mexicans love.”
“In the case of the Gila, New Mexico’s last free flowing river, there are responsible, cost-effective non-diversion alternatives that secure southwest New Mexico’s water future. We can have jobs and healthy rivers here on the Gila River,” said Salmon.
“Piping Gila River water to the Rio Grande or even on to Texas as proposed by Senator John Arthur Smith in his $25 million capital outlay request is the latest example in ongoing attempts statewide to raid water from rural areas to quench the insatiable thirst of unsustainable urban growth and inefficient agriculture. Draining the Gila River to keep Texas happy just adds insult to injury,” Salmon added. “Moreover, these large-scale water transfers from rural to urban areas don’t serve or mitigate urban growth, they create it.”
The Gila River is the last major free-flowing river in New Mexico. Riparian ecosystems comprise less than 1% of New Mexico’s arid landscape, and the Gila’s natural cycle of flows supports outstanding examples of southwest riparian forest, more than 300 species of birds, cold-water sport fisheries, intact native fish communities and a remarkable abundance of wildlife. The Gila provides significant economic value to the region with superb opportunities for outdoor recreation, nature-based specialty travel and wilderness experience.
The Gila is under threat from a proposal to divert 14,000 acre-feet per year of water, enough to satisfy the needs of a city the size of Las Cruces.
Background on Senator John Arthur Smith’s $25 million capital outlay can be found at www.gilaconservation.org