This story is a staff report from The Paper.

Today, U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury voted to pass the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in the House of Representatives, sending the $84.5 million she secured for critical New Mexico water infrastructure investments to the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. 

Rep. Stansbury secured funding for five of her proposed community-driven projects and programs in this year’s WRDA to support New Mexico’s communities in their response to historic drought and unprecedented hydrologic change.

“Water is ground zero for climate change, and communities across New Mexico and the West are facing rapid hydrologic change,” said Stansbury. “Today, I was proud to secure $84.5 million to invest in programs to support New Mexico with sustainable water projects and programs that will help our rural and Tribal communities in navigating our biggest water challenges to build a more resilient future.”

These projects include a $7.5 million funding authorization increase for the Tribal Partnership Program, a $50 million funding authorization increase for Section 593 infrastructure projects in central New Mexico, a reduced cost-share for the Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection Project from Bernalillo to Belen, $27 million for the restoration and preservation of acequia systems, and an updated hydrologic analysis for Estancia, New Mexico. 

Every two years, the biannual WRDA provides authorization for activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in their work build sustainable infrastructure to meet New Mexico’s water management needs, support the restoration of our ecosystems, and reduce the damages caused by floods. 

In addition to the investments, the omnibus legislation includes a provision championed by Senator Ben Ray Luján in the Senate to increase funding for the Western Rural Water Program by $365 million to provide communities across New Mexico and the West with funds for critical drinking, waste, and storm water projects.

The community-driven projects secured for funding are:

Tribal Partnership Program Funding

  • The Tribal Partnership Program is the only Corps authority that specifically directs partnerships with Tribes, facilitating vital funding for much-needed projects to promote environmental justice and equity. 
  • In addition to the $7.5 million funding authorization increase she secured in this year’s WRDA, Rep. Stansbury helped to secure provisions directing the Corps to provide technical assistance to Tribes to prepare for flooding, drought, and extreme weather events, establish a Tribal Liaison who will serve as the direct line of communication between the Secretary and Tribal communities, and provide a full cost-share waiver at the discretion of the Secretary.  

Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection Cost Share

  • Rep. Stansbury also secured a provision for the Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection Cost Share, which will direct the Corps to honor the original cost-share authorization of 25% for the Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection Bernalillo to Belen, New Mexico project.

Increased Funding for Section 593

  • The to increase funding by $50 million under the Section 593 Authorization and include water reuse projects was also included in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act. This increase will fund critical projects to protect the water security of New Mexicans, ensure access to clean drinking water, and ensure responsible management of water infrastructure projects in New Mexico’s First Congressional District and across the state.

Acequia Resiliency and Tribal Acequia Program Funding

  • Rep. Stansbury also secured a $27 million funding increase for the Acequia Irrigation System in a provision that restores and preserves acequia systems by supporting critical infrastructure improvements of river diversion structures, increasing local capacity to manage and prevent invasions of plant species, and supporting the research and development of management solutions for invasive aquatic plants. 

Updated Hydrologic Analysis Study for the Town of Estancia

  • Stansbury secured authorization for a feasibility study of an updated hydrologic analysis for the town of Estancia. The town of Estancia, as a rural, underserved community, is facing imminent threats of water shortages. A hydrologic analysis was completed in 2001 by the Corps, but the town has been unable to request funding for critical projects without an updated Hydrologic Analysis. Updating this hydrologic analysis will help the town of Estancia build much-needed infrastructure to divert and preserve water, protect agricultural production, and reduce flood hazards. 

The 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) will also support New Mexicans’ water infrastructure and management needs through funding and project authorizations that include: 

  • $22 million for water and wastewater infrastructure in Española
  • $15.5 million for water infrastructure in Farmington
  • $2.9 million for wastewater infrastructure in Mora County
  • $21 million for water and wastewater infrastructure in Santa Fe
  • A project authorization for water supply in the Lake Farmington Dam
  • A project authorization for dam supply improvements in the McClure Dam
  • Harmful algal bloom activities in the Rio Grande