Rio Grande Operating Agreement EIS, NM

CLIENT:  Bureau of reclamation

Elephant Butte Reservoir near Truth or Consequences, NM

Elephant Butte Reservoir near Truth or Consequences, NM

FAST FACTS:

  • Controversial agreement involving interstate and international water rights and accounting
  • Projected environmental impacts based on multiple climate change scenarios
  • Incorporated agricultural and socioeconomic forecasts
  • Analyzed alternatives that allowed for independent consideration of agreement elements
Elephant Butte Dam, listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Elephant Butte Dam, listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The Rio Grande Operating Agreement describes how the Bureau of Reclamation allocates, releases from storage, and delivers Rio Grande Project water to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in New Mexico, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 in Texas, and to Mexico in accordance with a 1906 international treaty. Rio Grande Project water is provided by the Bureau of Reclamation to irrigate a range of small- and large-scale agricultural operations, and for local, municipal, and industrial water uses.

EMPSi prepared an EIS evaluating the proposed continued implementation of the 2008 Operating Agreement over its entire remaining term (through 2050). We also prepared a biological assessment considering reservoir and river operations on threatened and endangered species—including the Rio Grande silvery minnow and a number of avian species. The EIS assessed the long-term effects of continued operations under the agreement, including incorporating climate change modeling scenarios into future water supply estimates, effects on special status species in a fluctuating reservoir, and analyzing surface water interaction with groundwater.