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Gila River back on ‘endangered’ list

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New Mexico’s Gila River has landed on a list of the country’s “most endangered” rivers after a five-year absence.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit American Rivers on Wednesday listed the Gila at No. 4 in its report of America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2014. The organization says one of the criteria for listing is “a major decision … in the coming year,” and the Gila River qualifies on that front.

The Interstate Stream Commission must decide before the end of the year what to do with more than $90 million in federal funding afforded the state under the 2004 Arizona Water Settlement Act. Under the terms, New Mexico has the right to divert up to 14,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Gila’s peak flows.

How to spend the funds – whether on a diversion project, conservation efforts or both – has been a matter of heated debate for a decade. The ISC is scheduled to inform the Secretary of the Interior of its decision by Dec. 31.

The Gila River last showed up on the list of the country’s 10 “most endangered” rivers in 2008.

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