- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission has been ordered not to meet about its deliberations regarding the future of the Gila River, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/1wttJko).

A Santa Fe state district judge issued a temporary restraining order Thursday, preventing the commission from holding meetings or taking action related to the river or the Arizona Water Settlements Act until a hearing Oct. 30.

Norman Gaume, the former head of the commission, has accused the agency in a lawsuit of violating the state Open Meetings Act. According to Gaume, the commission and a subcommittee conducted policy meetings without proper public notice or behind closed doors.

Amy Haas, the commission’s general counsel, denies there have been any violations. She said the allegations “were nothing more than a show to cast aspersions on the commission’s public process to consider projects under the federal Arizona Water Settlements Act.”

The District Court will decide Oct. 30 if the restraining order should be lifted or extended or another injunction issued.

The commission faces a Dec. 31 deadline for deciding whether to accept federal funds to build a diversion and storage system along the Gila.

So far, none of the proposals has risen to the top as the best option despite more than 200 meetings, volumes of public comment and $3 million spent on studies over the past decade.

At stake are tens of millions of dollars in federal funding and a new source of water that some see as a rare opportunity to bring relief to the southwestern corner of this drought-stricken state.

Under a 2004 settlement with Arizona, New Mexico is entitled to an average of 14,000 acre-feet of water a year, or about 4.5 billion gallons. Up to $128 million in federal funding would be available if the state builds a diversion system, or about half that if the state pursues other water projects in the region.

While it’s still unclear how much the water would cost consumers in southwestern New Mexico, critics are concerned the bill for diverting the water would end up surpassing what federal subsidies are available and result in skyrocketing water bills for the region’s residents.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com


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