Managing the water resources in the arid Southwest is a significant concern for all residents of this area.  Federal Wilderness designation restricts construction of any structures, including dams and water holding facilities.  Prohibition of mechanized and motorized equipment will hamper maintenance of existing dams in the designated Wilderness.

Water conservation projects in our region typically focus on managing arroyo runoff to prevent flooding through delayed release of water, and allowing for beneficial use of excess water that otherwise would not be used.  These projects can require the construction and maintenance of various structures and the installation of monitoring equipment.

Elephant Butte Irrigation District is the single largest supplier of surface water in New Mexico, serving over 8000 constituents in Southern New Mexico.  EBID has expressed serious concerns about management of water, flood control, and reliable capture of runoff water in the proposed wilderness areas.  In the conclusion of his letter, Gary Esslinger, Treasurer/Manager of EBID, states "We urge everyone else to take into consideration the dynamics of protecting future watershed resources without imposing such restrictions in these designated wilderness areas that the water resources cannot be used appropriately."

Gary Esslinger, Treasurer/Manager of EBID, has expressed concerns about the proposed wilderness designations and their impact on water resource management for our region.  Mr. Esslinger states "The need to plan for future flood control and appurtenances in our watershed during the summer monsoon season could have a great impact on future wilderness designated sites and we could miss the opportunity to reuse storm runoff as a vital resource to recharge our aquifers and diminish the need to drain down our reservoir. ... it would be to everyone's advantage to find a way to preserve and protect our water resources rather than to deny access to areas where such flood control improvements could be very beneficial.".

Testimony of Gary Esslinger, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Las Cruces Field Hearing on S.1689, 2/15/10:

Gary Esslinger - Elephant Butte Irrigation District (oral testimony)
Gary Esslinger - Elephant Butte Irrigation District (written testimony)

The Elephant Butte Irrigation District Board of Directors voted unanimously on 12/10/2007 to endorse and support the DONA ANA COUNTY PLANNED GROWTH, OPEN SPACE AND RANGELAND PRESERVATION ACT - THE PEOPLE'S PROPOSAL  To learn more, read the minutes from the 12/10/07 Board meeting.

The legislative restrictions imposed on lands designed as "wilderness" establish strict limitations on the access, activities and modifications to the land which can occur, which will severely restrict and/or eliminate the options available for the management of our water resources. 

Activities such as building berms, dams, spillways and water holding areas to manage flood control and capture and retain runoff water necessarily involve access to the areas in question, as well as the ability to build and maintain the required infrastructure.  Accomplishing these activities within the confines of the wilderness restrictions would be challenging, if not altogether impossible.

The negative impacts of a wilderness designation on the ability to appropriately manage our water resources should be a major concern for all of us.