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NEW MEXICO - Congratulations appear to be in order on the Silvery Minnow issue. - posted to KBC 9/21/03
Domenici pulls it off in the Senate to protect New Mexico's water!!! - But, a minority appears to be upset: "This is ecological insanity," said John Horning, executive director of Forest Guardians.
- Questions Presented: Does anybody give a rodent's behind?
Senate OKs Measure Stopping Water Release for Minnow
By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON— The Senate agreed Tuesday that people take precedence over endangered fish when it comes to New Mexico's water supply. A water spending bill that would prevent New Mexico from having to release San Juan-Chama water into the Rio Grande to save the endangered silvery minnow cleared the Senate late Tuesday.
The House approved a similar measure in July, setting the stage for final negotiations on the minnow language and other energy and water-related provisions in the bill. The $27.3 billion Senate energy and water spending bill approved Tuesday also includes money for federal functions ranging from nuclear weapons development to water projects.
The minnow measure— crafted by Sens. Pete Domenici, a Republican, and Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat— was added to the spending bill in response to a 10th Circuit Court opinion that would force New Mexico to release Colorado River Basin water to save the minnow. Domenici said the minnow rider should help solve a long-standing dispute between farmers and environmentalists regarding the minnow.
"We haven't solved the minnow problem, but we have said they can't use imported water for it," Domenici said. "We've established a plan for recovery that will have to be followed." But environmentalists said Tuesday the legislative rider would be a death blow to the minnow and cause long-term damage to the Rio Grande, which serves as habitat for the fish. "This is ecological insanity," said John Horning, executive director of Forest Guardians.
"It's a massive nail in the coffin for the Rio Grande."
The Domenici-Bingaman rider also included language that would force implementation of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife plan that is designed to ensure the survival of the fish. Horning said the opinion would not provide adequate water flow to save the fish. The federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this summer said water earmarked for New Mexico cities and farmers can be taken to protect the Rio Grande silvery minnow when needed.
The court maintained that the Endangered Species Act takes precedence over water contracts between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the Middle Rio Conservancy District and others. The court ruling would affect the San Juan-Chama Project, which moves water from the Colorado River Basin to the Rio Grande Basin, and a separate project that delivers Rio Grande water to farmers. The bill also provides for any legal challenges to the ruling to move forward.
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