June 2, 2017

Director of Interstate Stream Commission gone from agency

New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission employees are flooding out of the agency.

The latest was Director Deborah Dixon. Wednesday was her final day.

“We appreciate the work Director Dixon did for the agency and we wish her the best in her future endeavors,” the ISC’s public information officer, Melissa Dosher-Smith, wrote in an email to NM Political Report.

Neither the agency nor the Office of the Governor have responded to questions if Dixon was let go by Gov. Susana Martinez.

An engineer, Dixon was appointed by Martinez in 2015. Prior to working for the state, she was senior vice president of Bohannan Huston, Inc.

General counsel Amy Haas left the ISC this spring for a position at the Upper Colorado River Commission. At least two other employees have left the agency in recent weeks, and another is planning to retire next month.

The ISC consists of nine commissioners appointed by the governor, as well as a staff of attorneys, engineers, hydrologists and others. Its mission is to “investigate, protect, conserve, and develop New Mexico’s waters.” It must also ensure the state’s compliance with interstate compacts on the state’s rivers, making sure New Mexico sends its fair share of water to Texas. It has also been working on regional water plans.

The agency also draws money from two trust funds, the Irrigation Works Construction Fund and the Improvement to the Rio Grande Income Fund, for irrigation projects in New Mexico.

The ISC has been criticized by conservationists and some legislators in recent years for its role in planning a diversion for the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico.

In 2014, the commission voted to build a diversion instead of completing restoration and water conservation projects.

To receive the full federal subsidy for the project, New Mexico must follow a strict timeline. Yet, nearly three years after its decision to build a diversion, the state still lacks plans or a location for the diversion.

New Mexico has already spent more than $11 million of the estimated $90 million in federal money it plans to receive. There are also more than $6 million in outstanding contracts and $1.7 million in ISC’s operating budget, and New Mexico plans to spend another $15.2 million on the project in Fiscal Year 2018.