April 6, 2023

New Mexico poised to receive more than $30 million for water infrastructure projects

Hannah Grover/NM Political Report

Water from the Rio Grande is used to irrigate a field in Belen.

New Mexico is poised to receive more than $30 million in federal funding for water infrastructure projects.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Wednesday that $585 million of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be spent on 83 projects in 11 states, including six New Mexico projects.

The projects in New Mexico are on the Rio Grande and include:

  • $7.1 million for upgrades to the Bonita lateral at Caballo Dam
  • $1.78 million to repair a restaurant patio at the Elephant Butte Historic District Recreation Area
  • $3.39 million to rehabilitate roads and parking lots at the same recreation area
  • $9.6 million for water infrastructure rehabilitation at Elephant Butte Recreation Area
  • $4 million to repair damaged concrete at the base of El Vado Dam 
  • $4.5 million for a study about improvements in the Lower San Acacia Reach of the Rio Grande that are intended to “improve water conveyance, maintain or increase habitat available to endangered species, and improve cost-effectiveness of operation and maintenance actions.”

These investments come as decades of drought have strained water resources in the western United States.

Federal officials toured the Imperial Dam in California and Arizona on Wednesday, where they announced the new investments in infrastructure.

“The president knows that you can’t have a strong country without strong infrastructure,” White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said during a press conference this week. He said, in the west, that means having strong water infrastructure.

Several projects that will benefit New Mexico are listed under Colorado’s on the official sheet. These projects cross state lines. This includes $1.5 million to remove and replace the Azotea Tunnel outlet on the San Juan-Chama Project. The San Juan-Chama Project starts in Colorado and moves water from the Colorado River Basin to the Rio Grande Basin through a series of tunnels, including the Azotea Tunnel. The outlet of the Azotea Tunnel is on Jicarilla Apache land near Chama. This provides access to Colorado River Basin water for municipalities like Albuquerque.

The Animas-La Plata Project is also on the list as a Colorado project. The project will receive $10.8 million. This will be used to cover design, construction, compliance and commissioning costs for the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline. The Animas-La Plata Project includes Lake Nighthorse, which is located in Durango, Colorado. Water that will benefit the Navajo Nation is stored in Lake Nighthorse. Currently, the only way to get water from Lake Nighthorse to Navajo Nation is to release it from the headgates into the Animas River. That leads to potential water losses to seepage into the soil, evaporation and potential diversion.

Colorado’s lists of projects also includes $56 million to finalize planning, design and construction of a treatment plant for mine waste from the Leadville mine drainage tunnel and a chemical storage building.

A full list of projects that will receive funding can be found here