Full disclosure This blog post is my opinion and does not represent anyone else's, especially my husband's. Although I am guessing what he might think, he has not read or approved this post.
This Bible verse,
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
has been used many times through the years by preachers to illustrate the folly of relying on your own resources, rather than God to create a fulfilling life. Others writer's think that the heart is the seat of the emotions. So what the verse is saying might be "where you invest your resources (money, time, etc.) shows what you really love."
Over this past year, my husband has been drawn into a battle. The battle is over whether or not to dam the Gila river to provide more water for irrigation of the ranches and farmlands of southwestern New Mexico. This battle has been fought before. Several better options for diversions were discarded due to the enormous costs and technical difficulties of the terrain. Lord knows the drought has made water issues paramount in many people's priorities and the idea of diverting water from the Gila is once again on the table.
|Photo by Steve Harris|
THE LATEST THREAT
'The latest threat stems from an amendment to the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act, which provides $66 million of federal money for any water-related purpose in southwestern New Mexico, and encourages the state to divert 14,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Gila River and its tributary the San Francisco River. If used sensibly, this funding could provide the financing for critical water and waste-water infrastructure and municipal and agricultural conservation needs. New Mexico may receive an additional $34 – $62 million for a “NM Unit” to consumptively use Gila River water." - Allyson Swick, The Gila Conservation Coalition.
Norm is convinced that this diversion will provide very little reliable water for New Mexicans at an enormous cost, both financially for New Mexico taxpayers and environmentally for the endangered species that depend on a free flowing river. So he is fighting to educate voters about this issue.
It is not an easy fight. It brings to mind David facing Goliath.
On one side (the Goliath side) is the Interstate Stream Commission backed by the State of New Mexico' coffers and lawyers, the ranchers and farmers in the Gila area who stand to benefit from more water, financiers who are eagerly hoping to privatize this water project, Freeport McMoRan, the U.S.-based natural resource company with an industry leading global portfolio of mineral assets, significant oil and gas resources and a growing production profile who own a quite a lot of land and water rights in the area,
and the construction and engineering firms who must be salivating at the projected billion dollar cost of the project. One could wonder if the recently replaced State Engineer and ISC Secretary, Scott Verhines' company, Occam Consulting Engineers, might be one of those who bid on this project?
On the other side is a rather smaller (but growing fast) group of concerned New Mexicans, most of them from the four counties that surround the Gila, who are worried about the damage to their way of life, the endangered species that would be affected, and their pocketbooks, should this diversion be built instead of spending the money on what they consider to be better options for water projects. Oh, and a bunch of "enviros and boaters" (as one interested party impugned about folks who were not agreeing with him that this diversion would be good for New Mexico.)
Also in the "David camp" is my husband, Norm Gaume, a former director of the Interstate Stream Commission, who is putting up a good deal his retirement account for the legal battles ahead. As my dad, when playing poker, used to say, "put your money where your mouth is." Norm filed a complaint that the The Interstate Stream Commission was not following the provisions of the open meetings act. The state has sued us back. "The state claims Gaume’s open meetings act allegations were unfounded, and that as a result he should have to pay all the agency’s costs associated with the delay – airfare for the state’s consultants when a meeting was canceled at the last minute, the cost of agency staff time spent defending against his claim and attorneys’ fees spent fighting him in court." -John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal.
Should the judge agree with the state, at stake for us personally is about $100,000. Understandably this makes me worried and upset. However, I have always believed in standing up for what I believe is right, so I am supporting Norm because I believe he is right.
At stake for New Mexico taxpayers is about one billion dollars, minus the $66 million provided by the federal government. You do the math....
Now the issues become:
Do we, as New Mexicans, care about our rivers?
Do we care about endangered species?
Do we think that government should be open and transparent?
Do we think that government agencies should be held to telling the
Do we think we should be allowed to weigh in about how our tax
dollars are spent?
To read more, visit The Gila River Conservation Coalition and Norm's website The Gila Wild Defense Fund
One of the lead counsel for the Interstate Stream commission asked our attorney, "what does Norm want?"
I think he wants for the Interstate Stream Commission and staff to return to a more professional stance. I think he wants them to pay attention to the advice the experts they have hired have given them rather than ignoring that advice or worse, lying about it. I think he wants them to consider less expensive ways of increasing water supply for southwestern New Mexico. And I think he wants them to conduct business openly. I think he would also like for Governor Martinez to appoint commissioners who have some education and expertise in the highly complex issues they must consider.
What do I want? I want what is best for New Mexico. (Okay, I also want not to lose $100,000 in court.)
Idealistic? Well, yes, but don't we all want a better government? And maybe a pristine river for our children and grandchildren where they can experience trees, birds, snakes, amphibians and fish that the experts the I.S.C. hired said would vanish without a free flowing river?