WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate

Press Releases

Comments and questions needed on Santa Fe pipeline project

November 15, 2021
Tricia Snyder, WildEarth Guardians, 505-396-1752, tsnyder@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
#LivingRivers, #PressStatement
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, on behalf of the City and County of Santa Fe, is seeking comments on a proposed pipeline project that will significantly reduce flows in the lower Santa Fe River. The plan, which has been years in the making, would redirect water that now flows down the lower Santa Fe River into a 17-mile pipeline to be discharged into the Rio Grande instead. This change in where and when water flows will have effects on downstream communities and the environment. Reclamation is accepting public comments and questions related to the project through November 19.

“This project is expected to reduce flows in the lower Santa Fe River by up to 50%,” said Tricia Snyder, Rio Grande Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “That could translate into really significant impacts for the plant, fish, wildlife, and human communities that depend on this reach of the river. These potential impacts need to be taken seriously and be subject to a thorough evaluation.”

Under federal law, projects like these require an environmental review. The public scoping period is the first-step in that process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is used to determine the issues and parameters of the subsequent analysis by the federal agency. The agency, at a minimum, has a duty to assess the impacts through a brief and less rigorous environmental assessment; however, if significant effects are demonstrated to occur a much more comprehensive environmental impact statement must be prepared.

“It was a really tough water year all across the American West and climate change projections tell us it’s only going to get tougher,” added Snyder. “But we can’t let desperation for an engineered solution make us forget our responsibilities to the environment and people and cultures downstream. Reclamation has a duty to ensure that all potential impacts from this project are appropriately evaluated and in this case that means completing a comprehensive environmental impact statement.”

Reclamation is now accepting comments and questions on the project. Comments may be submitted through 5pm on November 19, 2021. WildEarth Guardians has prepared talking points to help those who wish to provide comments.

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