Haaland announces $60 million in federal funds for Lower Rio Grande

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Friday that $60 million in federal funding will go toward efforts to improve water conservation and increase drought resilience in the Rio Grande Basin, in starting at Elephant Butte Reservoir and heading south to Texas.

Haaland, a New Mexico native and member of Laguna Pueblo, announced the funding during an event at the Open Space Visitors Center in Albuquerque.

The federal funding comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $500 million for water management and conservation efforts in areas outside the Colorado River Basin that are impacted by the climate change in the form of drought.

However, Haaland’s announcement Friday represents the first time the federal government has announced Inflation Reduction Act funding for water management and conservation projects outside of the Colorado River Basin .

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Department of the Interior plan to announce funding for additional basins throughout the summer and fall.

“This $60 million, the first investment in a river system outside of the Colorado River, will help our communities overcome the devastating effects of drought and climate change, but will also help us address the extremely difficult challenges we face. we face to achieve our goals. water through our interstate river compact,” U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, said during the news conference.

Stansbury was referring to the legal dispute between Texas and New Mexico that resulted in a potential settlement pending approval by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Right now, we are seeing unprecedented cooperation between the states of New Mexico, Colorado and Texas to try to find collaborative solutions,” she said.

She said the $60 million from the Inflation Reduction Act will help irrigation districts, farmers and ranchers and other water users “so that we can deliver on those assurances and commitments that we have taken in the past to provide water to our neighbors. .”

Haaland remembers lessons from his childhood

At Friday’s event, Haaland talked about carrying water with her grandmother when she was young.

“My grandmother did not waste a single drop of water, not only because of the care she took in bringing water to her house, but also because she taught us how important water is valuable in the desert,” Haaland said.

She then talked about the Rio Grande, which she said doesn’t impact a single community. She said people have an obligation to use water wisely, whether they live in cities or tribal communities or are farmers or ranchers. Additionally, she said people need to manage water resources “with each community in mind, working collaboratively and respecting each other.”

The funding announced Friday will help efforts to increase storage in existing sediment dams. It will also help create new storage capacity located next to the Rio Grande Canal, which will capture stormwater that can be used to recharge the aquifer. This will help reduce demand for irrigation water and improve or create riparian habitat for threatened and endangered species, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

The money will also be used for projects to improve the efficiency of existing irrigation infrastructure and to fund voluntary forbearance and fallow programs.

State and federal partners in their efforts

This funding comes as climate change has led to a phenomenon known as aridification in the western United States.

“As we all know, the Rio Grande is the lifeblood of this state,” Hannah Riseley-White, director of the Interstate Stream Commission, said at the news conference. “And I think it’s important to recognize that what we do today, the choices we make today will potentially impact generations to come.”

She noted that the federal funding complements $65 million in state funding for the Lower Rio Grande Basin as well as another $30 million in state funding for the Middle Rio Grande Basin.

“This partnership between state funding and federal funding will be critical to addressing the challenges we face,” she said.

State Engineer Mike Hamman said the partnership developed between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state will be “significantly strengthened” by both the $65 million in state money allocated by the legislature and by federal funding of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“We will have $125 million in funds to allow us to begin to address these serious water shortage issues and achieve sustainable, balanced operation between surface water and groundwater systems,” he said. he declared. New Mexico Politics Report.

Climate change and federal investments

Stansbury stressed the need for federal funding amid climate change.

“Over the past several decades, New Mexico has experienced the worst drought in modern history,” Stansbury said. “And another way of saying that is climate change. New Mexico and the Rio Grande are ground zero for climate change.

She said this results in less snowpack, less river flow and a drying up of the Rio Grande during the summer months.

Rebecca Roose, the governor’s infrastructure adviser, said that within 50 years, New Mexico is expected to have 25 percent less water.

She explained how federal funding will help New Mexico, including improving outcomes for irrigators and protecting ecosystems.

The Inflation Reduction Act and Elections

The funding announced Friday also shows how elections can have a direct impact on communities.

“We are also fortunate that at this moment in history, not only are we facing unprecedented challenges, but we have unprecedented leadership and leadership matters,” Stansbury said.

She highlighted the passage of not only the Inflation Reduction Act – the largest investment in history to combat climate change – but also the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which in March , had brought about $1 billion to New Mexico for water infrastructure.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation released Project 2025, which outlines actions Republican lawmakers should take if they win majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and Donald Trump wins the presidential election. Among these initiatives is the repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Stansbury said the biggest threat to action on climate change is the possibility that Trump will be elected president again.

“But it is very clear that if he is re-elected for a second term, the former president plans to cut every possible climate investment,” she said, adding that Trump had cut climate investments during his term. previous term as president.

She highlighted reports that Trump is demanding $1 billion from oil company executives and plans to dismantle President Joe Biden’s fossil fuel regulations.

However, she said getting the money back from the Inflation Reduction Act would require cooperation from Congress “which is why these Senate and House elections are also very important to safeguarding our investments in climate change “.