Efforts to Protect Flow for Fish and Farmers
Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program, BOR
Ken Maxey, Albuquerque Area Office, BOR
The Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program provided leadership required to achieve a landmark agreement across numerous parties and for creating a collaborative program team to ensure successful implementation of Program goals and objectives. Employees in the Albuquerque Area Office and the Socorro Field Office pursued an integrated approach to multiple issues (river management endangered species conservation, water operations, and Native American trust management), fostering a process in which stakeholders could meet in the spirit of cooperation to exchange information, ideas and potential solutions to water management and environmental problems. As the principal river manager, BOR has the difficult job of managing a scarce and valuable commodity. Even without drought, conflicts among water users were constant. The river was often dry after distributions of water obligated to pueblos, tribes, irrigation districts, states, municipalities, industrial users, and the Republic of Mexico. Water also is essential to the survival of the Rio Grande silvery minnow and the southwestern willow flycatcher, endangered species that are considered indicators for overall ecological health in this region.
The Conservation Water Agreement, signed in June 2001, now provides for water flow along the Middle Rio Grande, protecting endangered species while providing adequate supplies to water users. This was preceded by two years of intensive work involving as many as fifteen parties (federal, state, and local government agencies, water users, and environmental groups) which resulted in the creation of the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program. In 2001, the Albuquerque Area Office was able to release 25,000 acre-feet of water during dry conditions, likely preventing species extinction. After significant decline, populations have stabilized and more minnows are now found in upstream reaches. Aided by $15.9 million in appropriations secured by Senator Pete Domenici, species recovery will be furthered through future Program efforts, including: supplemental water leasing, river maintenance and habitat restoration, non-native species removal, fish passage and river connectivity, and related research and monitoring.