New Mexico Delegation Applauds House Passage of Water Infrastructure Bill with Vital Provisions for NM and Tribes

Press Release

Date: Dec. 9, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Infrastructure

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) applauded the House passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bill that authorizes Army Corps of Engineers water projects nationwide. The bill must now pass the Senate before going to the president's desk to be signed into law.

"In New Mexico, we know how vital water is to preserving our economy, our environment, and our way of life. The Water Resources Development Act ensures we are making smart investments in water infrastructure and meeting the needs of our changing climate," said Udall, the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. "This bill will help address New Mexico's water challenges in a holistic way--increased flexibility for storage, improved flooding protection, expanded environmental restoration, and greater Tribal partnerships. This bill also includes provisions to ensure the federal government is honoring our obligations to Native communities by consulting with Tribes and ensuring meaningful engagement with local communities on water projects. The Senate should quickly pass this important legislation to help our state prepare for the water challenges that the future holds."

"In the face of climate threats, pollution, and extended drought, there is nothing more important for New Mexico's future than securing our supplies of clean drinking water," said Heinrich. "I'm pleased to support all of these major, forward-looking investments in water projects that will benefit New Mexicans--from tribal nations and rural communities to residents of the Albuquerque metro area. I will continue to fight to secure all of the funding and resources we need to protect and conserve our most precious resource."

"Strengthening and maintaining our water infrastructure is crucial for the future of New Mexico's communities, local economies, and recreation. In this compromise deal, I was proud to deliver for New Mexicans by securing a much-need expansion of the Abiquiu Reservoir and ensuring collaboration between the federal government and Tribal governments on water resource projects," said Luján. "I will continue working with New Mexico's delegation to ensure our state receives its fair share of federal investment for infrastructure improvements."

"Our way of life depends on access to clean, safe water -- from farms, businesses, and households to ecosystems across New Mexico. In the face of a continued water crisis, I've fought to ensure rural and tribal communities maintain access to this shared resource. I'm proud to have successfully secured provisions that deliver the investments our aquifers, rivers, and reservoirs need as we continue to face changing conditions and better ensure we are truly partnering with native sovereign governments in our water usage. It's critical my colleagues in the Senate pass this bipartisan bill and the President signs it into law to preserve our precious resources and protect the communities and industries that depend on them," said Torres Small.

"In New Mexico, water is a precious resource, but without essential infrastructure, long-term drought has the ability to harm our communities indefinitely," said Haaland, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. "This year's Water Resources Development Act has important resources that support sustainability, long-term infrastructure, and ecosystem restoration. I'm proud of the provisions that empower Tribes and Nations to implement water projects within their own communities. With this bill, New Mexico can meet the challenges of climate change head on and improve water access throughout our state."

New Mexico priorities in the Water Resources Development Act include:

San Juan-Chama Project, Abiquiu Dam, New Mexico: Would remove the 200,000-acre-foot storage limitation at Abiquiu Reservoir and allow for additional storage of either San-Juan Chama project or Rio Grande basin water if the entity requesting the storage acquires the necessary property interests to accommodate the storage. This provides immediate relief for other pending water construction projects and will provide greater flexibility for New Mexico as it plans for the future during a time of changing water supply.
Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection: Reauthorizes the $310,684,000 Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection (Bernalillo to Belen) project to keep surrounding communities safe from major flooding events.
Rio Grande, Environmental Management Program: Extends the authorization of the $26,151,000 Rio Grande, Environmental Management Program Reauthorization to 2029, which allows for cooperative regional restoration projects for bosque and other important habitat. This project prevents helps protect key habitat and wildlife to reduce the need for endangered species listings and helps recharge groundwater.
Tribal Partnership Program: Increases the per-project authorization level for the Corps' Tribal Partnership Program by an additional $6 million, for a total of $18.5 million, a program which has helped fund several flood control and environmental restoration projects in partnership with Tribal Governments in New Mexico.
Project Consultation: Requires the Corps to update its policies on environmental justice considerations and directs the Corps to promote meaningful involvement with minority communities, economically disadvantaged communities, and Indian Tribes in carrying out water resources development projects. The Corps must involve Indian Tribes on any Tribal lands near or adjacent to any water resources development project for the purposes of identifying lands of ancestral, cultural, or religious importance.
Congress typically passes WRDA every two years to authorize water resource projects across the nation for flood protection, navigation, ecosystem restoration, and more. The bill covers projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bureau of Reclamation water projects and tribal water settlements are typically handled in separate legislation.