New Mexico’s long history of not building dams on the Gila

Laura Paskus writes:

Almost 50 years ago, on June 14, 1967, four couples fired off a telegram from Las Cruces to Sen. Henry Jackson, a Democrat from Washington. Called “Scoop” by his pals, Jackson chaired the Senate committee looking at a bill to authorize the Central Arizona Project, a system of dams, canals and aqueducts on the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The bill would grant New Mexico some new water rights and also call for Hooker Dam. Planned for the Gila River, its reservoir would back into the nation’s first wilderness area, designated in 1924.

In the telegram, the couples registered their opposition to the dam. They complained that a lack of information was discouraging public participation. Building Hooker, they wrote, would violate the Wilderness Act.

We’re at it again, with a fresh discussion of a diversion that would take water from the Gila River in southwest New Mexico. Hooker and a persistent list of similar proposals, as Paskus explains, have foundered on the problem of high cost for little water. Critics expect the same thing to happen this time around, but the lure of water for human needs in a dry place like southwest New Mexico is strong.