- The Gila River watershed in New Mexico is the nation’s first designated Wilderness Area and the last main-stem river in New Mexico without a major dam or diversion. It is home to the federally protected Gila trout, recently opened to legal fishing, carefully controlled, and now a game fish on the bucket list of many an out-of-state as well as in-state fly fisher.
- The Gila is generally considered the only warm water trout fishery in America andas the only river in America where you can catch a wild trout and a flathead catfish out of the same pool. Such attributes move, challenge, and lure sportsmen and sportswomen to the Gila.
- The heart of the Gila River is the 42-mile “wilderness run” (East Fork confluence to Mogollon Creek) and an unparalleled western states canoe run. It’s home to the Gila trout, and “The Box” is a superb naturally reproducing sport fishery (various trout, channel and flathead catfish, smallmouth bass and carp), while also supporting the best birding area in the state. Animals from Rocky Mountain elk to Mexican coatimundi roam the hills in this section. Incredibly, the pristine “Box” is right where the ISC has set its most favored proposal for an industrial-scale diversion dam, canal, and reservoir. This proposal is not only bad for fish, wildlife and natural habitats, but is also bad for business.
- A recent poll commissioned by the business network, Protect the Flows,[i] found that the vast majority of New Mexicans believe that the state’s rivers are critical to quality of life (91%) and to outdoor recreation opportunities (86%), and are state treasures that should be protected for future generations (89%).
- Over 70% of New Mexican’s polled believe that a proposed Gila River diversion would have negative impacts on wildlife and fish in the Gila River and the health of the Gila River.
- 85% of New Mexicans believe we should use our current water supply more wisely, by continuing to conserve water, using new technology to help reduce wasted water, and increasing recycling of water. Voters prefer this option to diverting more water from New Mexico’s rivers.
- A recent report demonstrated that Colorado River tributaries located in New Mexico (San Juan, Gila, Animas, and San Francisco Rivers) contribute more than $2.89 billion to the state’s economy from river-related recreation and provide 17,000 jobs. [ii]
The proposed Gila diversion project is expensive and will require that New Mexico taxpayers and water users foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs, payments to Arizona for using the water, and maintaining extensive infrastructure. As forecasts continue to warn of long-term drought, a diversion project could be rendered useless if river flows fall below levels defined by the AWSA. The good news is that there are cost-effective measures that can meet southwest New Mexico’s future water needs while leaving the Gila River intact, therefore maintaining the quality of this premier outdoor recreation destination and supporting local economies dependent upon river-related recreation. New Mexico should not divert water from the Gila River. On behalf of 20,000 sportsmen and sportswomen in New Mexico and over 150,000 nationally, we believe that a diversion project is too expensive and will severely limit the outdoor recreation opportunities currently available on the Gila River. We respectfully request your support of cost-effective, non-diversion alternatives to meet the long-term water needs of the state. Sincerely Kristina Fischer, Vice PresidentAlbuquerque Wildlife Federation
Albuquerque, NM Oscar Simpson, State ChairmanBackcountry Hunters and AnglersAlbuquerque, NM
Dave Propst, PresidentBosque Chapter of Trout Unlimited Albuquerque, NM John Cornell, PresidentDoña Ana County Associated SportsmenMesilla Park, NM Nick Streit, PresidentEnchanted Circle Trout UnlimitedTaos, NM Jeff Arterburn, PresidentGila/Rio Grande Chapter of Trout UnlimitedLas Cruces, NM Ron Loehman, Conservation DirectorNew Mexico TroutAlbuquerque, NM Jeremy Vesbach, Executive Director New Mexico Wildlife FederationAlbuquerque, NM Sanford Schemnitz, ChairmanSouthwest Consolidated SportsmenLas Cruces, NM Toner Mitchell, NM Public Lands CoordinatorTrout Unlimited Santa Fe, NM Mike Rearick, President & Membership ChairTruchas Chapter of Trout UnlimitedSanta Fe, NM CC: New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, US Senator Tom Udall, US Senator Martin Heinrich, US Representative Steve Pearce, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor [i]Protect the Flows “Survey of New Mexico Voters Finds Concern About Rivers and Opposition to Gila River Diversion Project”http://protectflows.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Lori-Weigel-Gila-Executive-Summary-Final.pdf[ii]Protect the Flows in Partnership with Southwick and Associates, “The Business of the Colorado River: New Mexico,” 2012, http://protectflows.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/PTF-Fact-Sheet-New-Mexico.pdf