Feds OK Dam Project

Sat June 12, 2004 - West Edition

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) Albuquerque’s proposed $250 million diversion project to tap the Rio Grande for drinking water has won the approval of federal water managers, but still must be approved by the state engineer.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on June 2 signed a recommendation for the city to go ahead with its plans to build an adjustable dam in the Rio Grande on the north side of Albuquerque. The plan is pending before the state engineer.

The project is a key element in the city’s plan to cut the depletion of the aquifer. Officials have said that at the current rate of growth, Albuquerque could run out of problem-free underground water in 25 years unless the depletion is stopped.

The diversion plan calls for using water from the San Juan-Chama project by 2006. The San Juan-Chama diverts water from southern Colorado into the Rio Grande Basin. The city wants to divert twice its allotment, returning half to the Rio Grande as treated waste water.

The bureau’s green light was based largely on a 517-page report by the city and the bureau that examined the environmental consequences of the diversion. The study concluded the adjustable dam would be better for the environment than diverting water in other ways or doing nothing at all.

The potential effects of the project include reducing the amount of water in a 15-mile stretch of the Rio Grande by about 5 percent and disrupting minnow spawning.

The study said the city plans to build a number of features to help the fish, including a passageway around the dam.

Mayor Martin Chavez said he hopes construction can begin in July.