Funder: Bureau of Reclamation
Due date: October 16, 2017
Funds under this award are to be used to support two programs : (1) Implementation of the December 2016 Final Biological and Conference Opinion for Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Non-Federal Water Management and Maintenance Activities on the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico (2016 BiOp); and (2) acquisition and administration of water rights for meeting needs of threatened and endangered species on rivers throughout the state of New Mexico, most notably the Rio Grande and the Pecos River. Implementation of the 2016 BiOp and water rights acquisitions are complex, many aspects of which require focused technical and legal research and accounting/tracking. Reclamation is planning a pilot native water leasing program for the Middle Rio Grande (MRG). The pilot program is being developed and implemented in coordination with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), several irrigation districts and their irrigators, several Native American Indian Tribes, several municipalities, and the State of New Mexico. The pilot program includes several components that range from: a determination of the amount of water needed to meet critical, minimum needs of the river, its riparian habitat, and the fish and wildlife that depend on the river and its habitat; to acquisition of the water needed to meet critical river needs; to identification of key efficiencies in MRGCD infrastructure and on-farm efficiencies that can be implemented to increase water available for environmental purposes. Generally, student interns will support several priority activities of Reclamation’s water operations, project management, contracting, and water acquisitions staff. Specifically, student interns will assist with research needs (legal and technical) related to water operations and supplemental water programs. RECIPIENT INVOLVEMENT Task 1: Water Rights Database Development Reclamation has acquired water rights through purchase or lease on both the Rio Grande and Pecos River, primarily to support flows needed by species protected under the ESA during irrigation season. Task 1 will develop a comprehensive database of Reclamation’s water rights, including backup documentation available, details of historical use, current use, permitting requirements and deadlines, and contractual commitments to irrigators, districts and state regulatory agencies, which is needed in order to effectively manage each water right for its intended purpose. This database will provide Reclamation a complete and reliable accounting of its Rio Grande and Pecos River water rights and help define best management practices for management of those water rights. Task 2: Water Rights Analysis (MRGCD) MRGCD and Reclamation are initiating a program to have irrigators’ water rights temporarily available for environmental purposes, especially for supporting river flows during droughts and abnormally dry periods. Key to the success of the program is the identification of water rights that can be enrolled in this program. This task will assist as needed in the development of the framework (similar to the database developed in Task 1) of what information will be needed about each potential water right in order to meet licensing/permitting requirements by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. Task 3: Compile History of Reclamation Involvement in the Rio Grande Project Since the authorization of the Rio Grande Project in 1905, Reclamation has been involved in a variety of aspects of Project storage, irrigation, hydropower generation, flood control, and international water deliveries. NFWF and MRGCD has a need to develop a comprehensive history of Reclamation’s involvement in the Rio Grande Project.