New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission yesterday formally approved the creation of a “New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity,” a governance gizmo needed to move forward with a proposal to divert Colorado River tributary water from the Gila River in New Mexico:
Interstate Stream Commission members have approved a resolution designating a 14-member unit to design and build the Gila River diversion project in southwestern New Mexico.
The resolution, OK’d during Wednesday’s commission meeting in Albuquerque, identifies the parties making up the so-called New Mexico CAP, or Central Arizona Project, entity. The creation of the unit was necessary to proceed with the project that provides for the annual diversion of water from the Gila River for use in Catron, Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.
Parties making up the unit are the county commissions of Catron, Grant, Luna and Hildalgo; the governing bodies of the cities of Deming and Lordsburg and the village of Santa Clara; the Fort West Irrigation Association; the Gila Farm Irrigation Association; the Gila Hotsprings Irrigation Association; the Hidalgo Soil and Water Conservation District; the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Gila Irrigation Association.
There are many reasons to be skeptical about this project, the most important of which is that someone has to come up with gazillions of dollars in return for very little water. But there’s also reason to be skeptical on governance grounds.
All along, this project has been driven by the staff of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, a state agency. Now it is being handed off to what, at this point, is a thing of paper. One of the central points scholars who study water governance institutions have found is that building good ones is really hard, taking a concerted effort that is most effective when it grows out of repeated interactions among the communities that live within the boundaries to be governed (see here, here, and here). This process has not played out that way, which means that the “New Mexico CAP Entity” is not made up of people and entities that have done the heavy lifting needed to develop the levels of trust, reciprocity, and shared understanding of the region’s resource issues that will be required to make this thing work.
This would be different if the project had been driven all along by the people and entities now tasked with carrying it forward. You can’t just slap down some governance and expect it to succeed at a problem like this.