Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada on December 20 announced completion of an agreement, known as ‘Minute 318,’ to adjust water deliveries on the Colorado River to areas damaged by a devastating earthquake on April 4.
Following their meeting in Mexico City, the Secretaries also announced a commitment by the two governments to initiate, in January 2011, high-priority discussions on a comprehensive long-term agreement between the U.S. and Mexico on the management of the Colorado River.
“Through this water agreement, the U.S., Mexico, and the seven Colorado River Basin states are bringing resources together for our mutual benefit and for the benefit of our neighbors whose irrigation systems and livelihoods have been damaged by the Easter Sunday earthquake,” said Salazar, who is in Mexico City to discuss water, conservation, and natural resource issues with President Calderon and Mexican government officials. “Minute 318 is a remarkable achievement from a humanitarian perspective, but it also lays important groundwork for a much-needed comprehensive water agreement with Mexico on how we manage the Colorado River.”
“Water users and stakeholders up and down the Colorado River have a strong interest in a comprehensive water agreement that would enhance reliability, certainty, and efficiency of water deliveries,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor, who coordinated with the seven Colorado River Basin States and the International Boundary and Water Commission to reach the Minute 318 agreement. “The good faith negotiations that resulted in Minute 318 will help pave the way toward the comprehensive agreement for Colorado River management that is so needed on both sides of the border.”
Secretary Salazar and Secretary Elvira commended the work by the U.S. and Mexican Commissioners of the International Boundary and Water Commission, Edward Drusina and Roberto Salmon, who led their respective nation’s negotiation teams for Minute 318.
Under Minute 318, Mexico will be able to temporarily defer delivery of a portion of its annual Colorado River water allotment while repairs are made to the irrigation system in the Mexicali Valley of Baja California as a result of an April 4, 2010 earthquake. This agreement is founded on the 1944 Water Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.
A Canadian group is arguing that the North American Free Trade Agreement is the central problem behind a dispute over water and timber rights that could cost Canadian governments and businesses considerable money in the wake of a major lawsuit.
The group Council of Canadians offered this analysis on August 27:
The provinces and territories should not be held financially responsible for costly NAFTA lawsuits or expensive out-of-court settlements, as suggested by Prime Minister Harper yesterday, says the Council of Canadians.
The social justice advocacy group is also calling on the federal government to make the terms of the settlement with AbitibiBowater public because the settlement may have included payment for water and timber rights the company does not own.
“Canadians are rightfully angry that the Harper government has wasted $130-million of their money on a NAFTA settlement with AbitibiBowater. But to blame Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, as the prime minister is trying to do, is a deflection from the real problem of letting companies sue the federal government,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
The $130-million NAFTA settlement with AbitibiBowater is the largest since the trade agreement came into force in 1994. By law, the federal government is bound to defend NAFTA challenges to provincial or territorial policy, and to cover the associated costs. Using the public anger at the size of the payout, Prime Minister Harper said yesterday he will be establishing a legal mechanism to force the provinces and territories to pay for future trade-related settlements.
“Danny Williams was absolutely right and within his provincial powers to take back the water, timber and land of a company that was giving up on Newfoundland,” says Barlow. “There’s no proof that giving companies the power to sue countries in trade deals actually attracts foreign investment. The high costs could be avoided by pulling the Chapter 11 investor-dispute process out of NAFTA.”
The Council of Canadians is concerned that the settlement included payment for water rights the company doesn’t have. If the terms of the deal state that the $130-million will broadly satisfy the value of AbitibiBowater’s NAFTA claim, which included a claim to water and timber rights lent to the company by the Newfoundland government nearly 100 years ago, the Harper government has created a de facto private property right to water where none exists in Canadian law.
“There are vast constitutional consequences in the AbitibiBowater settlement if in fact Harper is compensating a private company for water rights as if that company owned the land and water to begin with because it doesn’t,” says Steven Shrybman, trade lawyer and Council of Canadians board member.
The settlement must be court-approved and will be discussed at a hearing Sept. 14 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the company is incorporated. The Council of Canadians is calling for a public airing of the terms of the AbitibiBowater settlement, which would then inform possible constitutional issues.
A new initiative to promote cooperation between the United States and Mexico on Colorado River management will be discussed at the next public meeting of the Colorado River Citizens’ Forum.
The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission established the CRCF in 2003 to facilitate the exchange of information between the USIBWC and members of the public about Commission activities in Yuma County, Arizona and Imperial County, California.
Earlier this year, the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, established a Binational Core Group to facilitate U.S.-Mexico cooperation on Colorado River issues. The Core Group includes representatives from the federal government, states, and non-governmental organizations. The objective of the joint cooperative process is to explore water conservation, shortage management, augmentation, and environmental issues with potential binational benefits in the areas of environmental, agricultural, and urban water use. USIBWC Public Affairs Officer Sally Spener will discuss the activities this group has undertaken.
The CRCF will also learn more about water management in Mexico from Engineer Jorge Soto of Mexico’s National Water Commission. Engineer Soto will discuss the water conveyance and delivery system in Irrigation District 014 in the Mexicali Valley. The district has over 200,000 hectares under irrigation. The region irrigates with Mexico’s allotment of Colorado River water and also relies on groundwater pumped from over 700 wells.
United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission November 5; For more information: Sally Spener 915-832-4175 email@example.com
The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has released the Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact, Improvements to the Rio Grande Rectification Project. Public comment on the document will be accepted through September 2, 2008.
The study analyzes environmental impacts of plans to raise Rio Grande flood control levees and dredge the river in the USIBWC’s Rio Grande Rectification Project in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties in Texas. The proposed improvements are intended to increase the flood containment capacity of the levees and to restore the normal flow capacity of the river, which has been reduced by sediment deposition. Levee-raising in the upstream portion of the project in east and central El Paso was completed in 2007. The EA addresses proposed levee improvements downstream from the Zaragoza International Bridge and sediment removal at various sites. Improvements would be undertaken in phases as funding becomes available.
According to the EA, the proposed improvements would have a very significant socioeconomic benefit for the community by providing increased flood protection. Agricultural lands would also benefit by the increased efficiency in delivery of irrigation water resulting from dredging. All work would be conducted within the existing project right-of-way and no significant effects on wildlife habitat are expected.
The work is also consistent with Minute No. 313, an agreement of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, which defines each country’s maintenance responsibilities in the Rio Grande Rectification Project.
Electronic copies of the EA are available on the USIBWC web page at: http://www.ibwc.gov/Organization/Environmental/EIS_EA_Public_Comment.html. For more information: Sally Spener 915-832-4175 firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, has identified works it will be undertaking during the current year to maintain the Rio Grande flood control project and stabilize the international river boundary in the area of El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The works are being carried out in conformance with Minute No. 313, Maintenance in the Rectified Channel of the Rio Grande, a Commission agreement concluded earlier this year. Minute No. 313 makes recommendations for works in critical locations where the Rio Grande channel has problems conveying normal and flood flows as a result of sediment, vegetation growth, and levees in poor condition.
“This agreement will enable the Commission to undertake critical work to remove sediment caused by the 2006 flood,” said U.S. Commissioner Carlos Marin.
Mexican Commissioner Arturo Herrera stated, “This Minute helps to address the problem by establishing a clear mechanism for distribution of maintenance works in the Rio Grande channel between both countries for this region.”
The agreement covers a 91-mile (146.5 km) reach of the river from El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua downstream to Fort Quitman, TX. In accordance with the agreement, each country will be responsible for removing sediment from specific river reaches totaling 45.5 miles (73.23 km) each. The work will be carried out by personnel or contractors from the U.S. Section and the Mexican Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Each section will also be responsible for maintaining the floodway and levees in its own country.
Minute No. 313 identifies priority sites affected by flood flows during storms in August 2006. The priority works include sediment removal and levee repairs in both countries. Both Sections began work at priority sites in 2007. The U.S. Section has already restored the U.S. river levee from near Asarco to the Zaragoza International Bridge. The Mexican Section, using funds provided by the U.S. Section, removed sediment from a portion of the concrete-lined Chamizal Project channel through central El Paso-Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican Section, in cooperation with Mexico’s National Water Commission, also removed sediment from critical reaches of the river channel in the Juarez Valley and did vegetation removal and clearing along the Mexican levee in the same area.
In accordance with Minute No. 313, the U.S. Section Work Plan for 2008 includes stabilization of the river bank for 200 feet (60 m) downstream of International Dam, which has already been completed, silt removal and channel realignment between International Dam and the Chamizal Project, and environmental permitting to realign the river in future years at the Guayuco and Diablo Arroyos in Hudspeth County (the river alignment has changed due to the impact of the arroyos).
This year, Mexico will be removing sediment along the river channel between American Dam and International Dam, with work expected to be undertaken from June through October, and at three other segments totaling 11 miles (18.4 km) between the Zaragoza International Bridge and Ft. Hancock, TX- El Porvenir, Chih. The Mexican Section will also be doing work on its levees.
The Commissioners observed that prior to Minute No. 313, there was not a clear understanding of the responsibilities to be undertaken by each Section, making it difficult to schedule and arrange necessary maintenance work on an ongoing basis. Failure to remove silt and attend to other maintenance tasks presents a risk of municipal flooding and could result in a change in the river’s course, altering the international boundary. Minute No. 313 also allows each country to better plan and allocate funding.
Contact: Sally Spener 915-832-4175 email@example.com
LEVEE WORK: The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has begun construction of Rio Grande flood control levee improvements in Doña Ana County, New Mexico. The work will repair structural deficiencies and raise levee height to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency criteria.
The project is being carried out using $11.8 million in federal funding provided to the USIBWC for levee work in the area. Construction has begun on the east river levee in the Mesilla Valley. In the coming months the USIBWC expects to raise and rehabilitate the east levee for approximately ten miles from Mesilla Dam extending upstream past Picacho Bridge. A small section of the west levee near the Calle del Norte Bridge and the Mesilla Valley Bosque Park will also be repaired.
The USIBWC is raising the levee to meet FEMA standards requiring 3 feet of freeboard during the 100- year flood. Freeboard refers to the distance between the water surface elevation and the top of the levee. In the Mesilla Valley, studies show the levees do not have sufficient freeboard so they are being raised by up to 2.5 feet. A recent geotechnical analysis has also shown that the levees, which were constructed between 1938 and 1943, have a high sand content, which could lead to seepage and erosion. To repair this structural deficiency, the levees are being plated with engineered material containing clay. All construction work is being performed by USIBWC staff.
Elephant Butte Irrigation District and El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 today signed a new operating agreement for the Rio Grande Project. The agreement is now headed to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Regional Director for the final signature.
Reclamation had operated the project under modified procedures for more than a year while staff negotiated with the districts. The previous operating procedures were developed in the early 1980s by Reclamation but never approved by the districts. The Rio Grande Project supplies water to lands located in New Mexico and Texas and delivers water to Mexico by way of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
In accordance with the Rio Grande Compact, Reclamation will utilize an average yearly release from Rio Grande Project storage of 790,000 acre-feet as the amount needed to provide a full allocation to both districts and Mexico. An acre-foot of water is enough water to meet the annual needs of two U.S. households or 326,000 gallons.
The new agreement calls for El Paso No. 1 and Mexico to take their water deliveries at their river headings, based on historical river performance. Elephant Butte Irrigation District’s allotment will be used to make up for any losses in performance of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The district will also benefit from increases in the performance of the Rio Grande in making water deliveries to the various canal headings.
Each district will be able to carryover the current year’s unused allocation and may accumulate a maximum carryover amount of 60 percent of the full allocation.
“It took a lot of hard work and cooperation to negotiate the important details of this agreement,” said Larry Walkoviak, Upper Colorado Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation. “We are pleased with the outcome and grateful to all parties involved for their involvement and persistence.”
The agreement is effective immediately and runs through December 31, 2050. The parties may modify provisions of the agreement if they reach unanimous consent.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado Region, February 14. Contact:?Mary Perea Carlson?(505) 462-3576
The TCEQ Watermaster announced October 11 the receipt of more than 224,000 acre feet of water from Mexico at the Amistad reservoir near Del Rio, Texas. This milestone marks the first time since 1992 that Mexico has been able to close a water accounting cycle without a water debt to the U.S.
“I am pleased that the government of Mexico is making such a strong effort to meet its obligations,” says TCEQ Chairman Buddy Garcia. “The efforts of the watermaster, the International Boundary and Water Commission, Mexican government officials, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Governor Rick Perry have paid off to assure certainty of the area’s future water supplies.”
Under a treaty signed by both countries in 1944, Mexico is obligated to transfer a minimum of 350,000 acre-feet per year on average to the U.S., except in periods of extraordinary drought. The treaty stipulates water cycles that begin when both Amistad and Falcon reservoirs are full or at five-year intervals whichever comes first.
This transfer closes cycle 27, increasing U.S. reserves by 6.8 percent. During the five-year cycle, from Oct. 2002-Sept. 2007, Mexico has delivered 1,750,000 acre-feet of water to the U.S. which is the treaty minimum requirement.
An acre-foot of water is the amount of water necessary to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. It is the equivalent of 325,851 gallons of water. This is roughly the amount of water used yearly by an American household of four. The 224,639 acre-feet also represent the average annual water utilization by municipalities drawing water from the Rio Grande from Del Rio to Brownsville, or roughly two months of peak irrigation demand.
The current status of the basin, other water allocations, and the additional water received, will allow the U.S. to maintain irrigation water demands in the middle and lower Rio Grande going into 2008.
Contact:?Terry Clawson ?Phone: 512-239-0046 ?Pager: 512-875-9213 Transfers 224,639 Acre-Feet of Water to U.S. Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Annual deliveries completed. Mexico has completed Rio Grande water deliveries to the United States in accordance with the 1944 Water Treaty, fulfilling its obligations for the 2002-2007 water delivery cycle. Under the terms of the treaty, Mexico is to deliver water to the United States from six Rio Grande tributaries. The treaty specifies a minimum delivery of 1.75 million acre-feet during the course of a five-year water delivery cycle. Mexico completed the minimum required deliveries for 2002-2007 at the end of the cycle on September 30, 2007.
The previous two five-year cycles ended in deficit. In 2005, Mexico completed paying its water debt from those cycles.
“These water deliveries mean that users in the United States have the water they are entitled to under the treaty,” said Carlos Marin, U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). “It’s good news that we are starting a new cycle without a deficit.”
The IBWC is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico and settling differences related to the treaties. The IBWC determines the national ownership of waters of the Rio Grande and operates two international storage reservoirs on the river – Falcon and Amistad. The waters delivered by Mexico are stored in the international reservoirs for release to downstream municipal and agricultural users. Once IBWC determines national ownership, Texas will allocate U.S. water to its authorized water right holders.
Friday October 12, 2007?Mexico Delivers Water to the United States to Fulfill Treaty Obligations Source: The International Boundary and Water Commission. Contact:?Sally Spenerfirstname.lastname@example.org
.S.-Mexico Agreement on Lower Colorado
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced August 13 that the Government of Mexico and the Government of the United States have renewed their commitment to cooperate and collaborate on issues related to the Colorado River. The announcement follows a recent meeting between Secretary Kempthorne and Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan of Mexico.
The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, is responsible for the domestic management of the Colorado River, the waters of which are shared by seven U.S. basin states and Mexico. Mexico’s Colorado River allocation is governed by the 1944 Treaty Relating to the Utilization of the Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande, which is administered by the International Boundary and Water Commission.
The U.S. and Mexican authorities have agreed that cooperative, innovative and holistic measures should be considered to ensure that the Colorado River is able to continue to meet environmental, agricultural and urban demands of both nations. Mexican authorities stressed the importance of ensuring that the needs of all stakeholders in the lower portion of the Colorado River are understood and considered by leaders of both nations.
The U.S. authorities acknowledged the growing national and international focus on the Colorado River as a result of the ongoing historic drought in the basin. The U.S. authorities also noted recent innovative agreements among the seven U.S. states that rely on the Colorado River.
Among the issues expected to be addressed are: Continued needs of both nations for water for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes, the study of the hydrological system and potential impacts of climate change, including the effects of the ongoing historic Colorado River drought; environmental priorities, including Colorado River Delta habitat protection and enhancement; opportunities for water conservation, storage and supply augmentation, such as seawater desalination and reuse; strategies aimed to ease variations in the Colorado River system; and potential opportunities for more efficient Colorado River water deliveries to Mexico.
Joan Moody (202) 208-6416?(en Español) Isabel Benemelis (202) 208-7975 US Department of the Interior http://www.doi.gov/news/07_News_Releases/070813_statement.html