ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – The U.S. Department of Interior faces a deadline Monday to act on an agreement that marks the next step in a long, contentious process as New Mexico looks to develop its share of water from the Gila River.
Those opposed to diverting water from the river submitted thousands of petition signatures to the department last week, hoping to put the brakes on what they say could amount to a $1 billion boondoggle.
Supporters have argued that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation associations in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water.
The department’s consideration of the agreement is procedural. Officials have said approval would not guarantee construction of a diversion system along the Gila, but rather trigger a series of environmental and economic feasibility reviews.