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Report: Gila River Diversion Could Cost $1.1 Billion

PHOTO: A new report concludes that the controversial proposal to divert portions of the Gila River could cost more than $1 billion. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
PHOTO: A new report concludes that the controversial proposal to divert portions of the Gila River could cost more than $1 billion. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
September 19, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. - The controversial proposal to divert areas of the Gila River could cost an estimated $1.1 billion, according to a report prepared by the former head of New Mexico's Interstate Stream Commission. Norman Gaume says the Bureau of Reclamation's cost estimates for the project are accurate, but are broken down into segments and don't reflect an overall price tag.

"I went to literally half a dozen different pages throughout this 400-page report to extract the costs and then put them on a single sheet of paper, to let people know we're talking about a $1 billion project," Gaume says.

The proposed diversion is linked to the "Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004," which granted Gila River water to tribes in Arizona.

Gaume says the nine-member Interstate Stream Commission, which is appointed by the governor, has the choice to approve the diversion or other less-expensive options that don't include diverting the river. Gaume explains, as a native New Mexican and water professional, he believes diverting the Gila River is not in the state's best interest.

"The diversion proposal would effectively destroy the habitat in the river corridor, in a wild canyon of the river that remains wild today," says Gaume. "Seven endangered species live in the reach where they propose to construct this project."

Gaume says the Interstate Stream Commission is legally obligated to vote on the project by the end of the year.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM