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HEALTHY RIVERS

Twenty years ago the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission came to town to organize local support for a Gila River diversion and storage project. After three failed attempts to dam and divert the Gila over the past 50 years, the ISC was in the process of cutting a deal with Arizona for Gila River water and federal funding. Hearing of the ISC scheme, local conservation groups, including GRIP, sprang into action. Realizing that this time around, with talk of a federal subsidy for a project, the outcome for the Gila could be different.

GRIP, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance (UGWA) and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) came together to resurrect the Gila Conservation Coalition (GCC). GCC historically operated as an informal group of volunteers. Reading the tea leaves, GRIP and its partners decided GCC needed organizational support and the ability to fundraise to defeat this latest threat to the Gila. GRIP serves as GCC’s fiscal agent and provides office space. GRIP, UGWA, and CBD all provide staff to GCC’s efforts.

The Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) was passed in 2004 and GRIP and its partners in GCC along with conservation organizations around the state and a diverse group of stakeholders successfully advocated against the diversion and for use of AWSA funding instead on local community water projects. After 15 years and more than $16 million spent on studies, the Interstate Stream Commission defunded the Gila diversion environmental impact assessment process in June 2020, effectively ending this unaffordable and ecologically harmful project.

As the ISC contemplates how to allocate the remaining AWSA funds, GRIP and its GCC partners continue to advocate for use of these dollars on priority community water projects that will meet southwest New Mexico’s immediate and future water needs while maintaining the free flow of the Gila River.

As a key partner in GCC, GRIP helps to coordinate the annual Gila River Festival, now in its 16th year.

2020 Gila Resources Information Project

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