Thursday, 07 January 2016 00:00

By Chris Williams

"Somehow the watercourse is to dry country what the face is to human beauty. Mutilate it and the whole is gone."—Aldo Leopold, Conservationist in Mexico, 1937

"… these subsidized water projects, they're not really intended to serve growth, or to meet growth, they're intended to create it."—interview with M.H. "Dutch" Salmon, author of ¡Gila Libre!, August 2015

New Mexico's Gila is not a big river. At least, once it has left the state, along its lower reaches, it's not a big river anymore: Once it wends its dammed and diverted way through Arizona, it becomes a dry, sandy-bottomed reminder of a once living, powerful water course several miles wide - the epicenter of human cultures stretching back millennia. But now a new threat, closer to its source in New Mexico, has returned.

For the fourth time in as many decades, the last wild-running river in the state is threatened by the re-emergence of a giant river diversion and water storage plan. Despite intense and growing local opposition, that plan took an ominous step forward on November 23. On that day, the US Department of the Interior signed an agreement with the Central Arizona Project Entity to study options to further evaluate potential water projects related to the Gila River, one of which is the proposed diversion and storage plan. The proposed diversion project, if enacted, will radically alter the flows and pathway of New Mexico's Gila River, threatening its rich ecological tapestry.