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Coalition urges federal agency to appropriately evaluate water pipeline project

November 22, 2021
Tricia Snyder, WildEarth Guardians, 505-396-1752, tsnyder@widlearthguardians.org
In This Release
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.–The Pipeline Coalition (Coalition), made up of 21 groups and individuals, submitted comments on a proposed pipeline project that, if constructed, will significantly reduce flows in the lower Santa Fe River. The Coalition includes a wide array of interests from acequias and other traditional communities concerned about reduction of flows vital to agricultural production, to individuals potentially impacted by the project, to environmental groups concerned with potential impacts to habitat. The 17-mile pipeline project is being proposed by the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County and will redirect water that currently creates aquatic habitat, nourishes riparian areas and wildlife communities, and is utilized by downstream human communities for agriculture and other traditional purposes.

“The Coalition is committed to preserving the health, history, and traditions of the Santa Fe River,” said Carl Dickens, spokesperson for the Pipeline Coalition. “We will be working closely with the Bureau of Reclamation, the City of Santa Fe, and Santa Fe County to meet those commitments.”

The Santa Fe River is historically a perennial river that flowed into the Rio Grande. In their comments, solicited as part of requirements for federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Coalition identified numerous concerns related to potential impacts of the project. Some of these concerns included potential impacts to native and imperiled species’ habitat, aquifer recharge, and reduction of water to downstream users. Other concerns centered around impacts to water quality for not only the Santa Fe River but also the Rio Grande. The Coalition also called on the federal agency conducting the review, the Bureau of Reclamation, to abide by a local Living River ordinance adopted by the City of Santa Fe in 2012 with the intent of mimicking natural hydrologic cycles and keeping the channel wet.

“It is my understanding that surrounding Pueblo leadership asked early on to be included in discussions regarding the pipeline,” said Dr. Camilla Bustamante, La Cienega Valley Association President. “Our community shares the same concern as our neighbors that there is not coordinated stakeholder involvement to assure that impacts on traditional use and protect the natural environment. It is a major reason we needed to work within a coalition.”

The initial scoping period closed on Friday, November 19. The Bureau of Reclamation will now evaluate all the comments and questions received and determine whether a more in-depth review, through an Environmental Impact Statement, is warranted. The public will have additional opportunities to submit comments as evaluation of the project progresses and can find updates on the process here.

“As our water challenges increase here in New Mexico due to climate change, we will need to be extra mindful that we are upholding our responsibilities to the environment, as well as to human communities downstream,” said Tricia Snyder, Rio Grande campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “The potential impacts of this project demand a thorough and robust review to ensure we’re not creating more problems than we’re solving.”

The Pipeline Coalition is made up of 21 individuals and organizations concerned about potential impacts of the San Juan-Chama Return Flow Project and ensuring the health of the lower Santa Fe River, the health of the species that depend on it, and maintaining needed flows for traditional uses.

The group includes:

Santa Fe River Traditional Communities Collaborative, Carl Dickens and Felicity Broennan, Co-Chairs
New Mexico Acequia Association, Paula Garcia, Executive Director
New Mexico Acequia Commission, Chairman Ralph Vigil
Santa Fe – Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District, Jose Varela Lopez, Vice-Chair
WildEarth Guardians, Jen Pelz, Rio Grande Waterkeeper & Wild Rivers Program Director and Tricia Snyder, Rio Grande Campaigner
New Mexico Wild, Garrett VanaKlasen, Northern New Mexico Conservation Director
Wild Lands Network, Michael Dax, Program Director
Rivers Run Through Us, Bobbe Besold, Co-Director
River Source Inc., Rich Schrader, Director
The Global Warming Express, Bobbe Besold, Board Director
El Guicu Ditch Association, La Cienega
Acequia de La Cienega, La Cienega
Acequia de La Capilla, La Cienega
La Bajada Community Ditch & Mutual Domestic Water Association, La Bajada
La Cienega Valley Association, La Cienega and La Cieneguilla
Agua Fria Village Association, Agua Fria
La Bajada Traditional Village Committee, La Bajada
La Cienega Mutual Domestic Water Association, La Cienega
Ranchitos de Galisteo Water Users Association
Keir Careccio and Carol Cooper, The Rael Ditch, El Canon
Christie and Kelsey Kolar, La Cieneguilla Farm

Even when the lower Santa Fe River runs dry, the riparian areas surrounding it provide important habitat. Photo by WildEarth Guardians.





Other Contact
Carl Dickens, 505-577-3708, cedickens2@yahoo.com , Camilla Bustamante, 505-690-3174, camb81@me.com

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