A top Interior Department official touted the new infrastructure law during a tour of a wasteway project in New Mexico on Wednesday.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau said the New Belen Wasteway, a Bureau of Reclamation project that routes agricultural runoff back to the Rio Grande, is an example of an investment in water infrastructure that has huge impacts on surrounding communities.
“These investments are being made through tried and true programs that will help safeguard local water supplies, support efficiency and rebuild infrastructure — and support wildlife conservation, just as this project here does,” Beaudreau said.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, includes $8.3 billion for such programs, and $1.4 billion for ecosystem restoration and resilience.
Beaudreau's visit coincided with Interior announcing the allocation of nearly $10 million in fiscal year 2022 for Bureau of Indian Affairs irrigation projects and power utilities.
U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico accompanied Beaudreau and other Interior officials on the tour of the New Belen Wasteway, and discussed the need for updated water infrastructure for pueblos in the state.
“It needs to be improved so that it can operate more efficiently and that it can be operated more resiliently with the depletion of water that we’re seeing due to climate change,” Stansbury said.
She says such a bill to update puebloan water infrastructure will soon be introduced in Congress.
A report published last year found deteriorating or inadequate infrastructure is a main barrier for tribes in the neighboring Colorado River Basin accessing clean water.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.