US$19 million settlement includes sediment mitigation at Isleta Diversion Dam in New Mexico

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Isleta Pueblo and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) signed a global settlement in Isleta Pueblo, N.M., on Oct. 21, resolving past issues associated with Isleta Diversion Dam. Provisions within the agreement include removing sediment that has accumulated behind the dam and work on the dam structure to reduce or eliminate future sediment buildup.

The settlement, according to published reports, provides a total of US$19 million: $10 million in funds or services for upgrading the infrastructure, functions and operations of the Isleta Diversion Dam; $4 million in funds or services for river and bosque (woodlands) restoration on pueblo land; a $5 million lump sum payment to Isleta Pueblo; and it grants the U.S. an easement for the next 100 years.

The Isleta Diversion Dam, located on the Rio Grande, is one of three diversion dams maintained by MRGCD that also includes the Angostura and the San Acacia diversion dams.

Isleta Diversion Dam is a reinforced concrete structure, 21 feet high and 674 feet long and has 30 radial gates. The Conservancy District built the dam on pueblo land in 1934 and Reclamation rehabilitated the structure in 1954. Isleta Pueblo has maintained that proper easement was never fully granted to the district or Reclamation.

“It is our hope that the collaborative effort started through this process will continue, and that we have a positive path forward as partner agencies in the operation of Isleta Diversion Dam,” said Reclamation Commissioner, Estevan Lopez. “Reclamation is happy to report that the first phase of sediment removal under this settlement is complete.”

According to Reclamation, technical teams have facilitated ratification of standard operating procedures for Isleta Diversion Dam and completed a cross-section data collection plan, a dam operations record keeping plan and a sediment disposal plan.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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