State program to protect waterways called costly but necessary

“…It’s imperative for the state to gain more autonomy, even if the price seems steep, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a final rule that cemented the high court’s decision into official policy, leaving about 95% of New Mexico’s waters unprotected, the regulators said.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 2, 2023

State regulators have estimated the time and money required to develop full authority to protect New Mexico’s rivers, streams and lakes in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that sharply narrowed the federal government’s power to regulate wetlands and waterways.

It will cost the state $7 million to $9 million a year to run a program that regulates all types of polluted discharges into state and federal waters and will take seven to 10 years to establish, state officials told the Buckman Direct Diversion Board on Thursday.

Creating a permitting program to cover discharges going into designated waters of the state could be achieved within five years, even though those waters make up a much larger array than the ones that fall under federal jurisdiction, Environment Department officials said.

The state program would be an important step, but only a step, of the river diversion, a joint city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County project that draws water from the Rio Grande, they told the board.

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