On June 3, 2020, the GCAS Board of Trustees submitted a formal comment in opposition to the US Bureau of Reclamation's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which proposes a diversion of the Gila River in the general area of Virden, New Mexico. All of the Bureau of Reclamation's proposed alternatives for river diversion and construction appear certain to damage or destroy a large number of historic and archaeological sites throughout the proposed project area which spans both New Mexico and Arizona.
The GCAS's own Marty Eberhardt had first alerted the GCAS Board to this DEIS, suggesting that the GCAS would want to submit a formal comment. The Hopi Tribe had already submitted their own comment in opposition to the DEIS, recommending to the Bureau of Reclamation that no action whatsoever should be taken to divert the Gila River due to the risk of destruction of numerous areas containing human remains as well as hundreds if not thousands of archaeological sites and features in the project area that are of great cultural significance to the Hopi.
Difficulty: the deadline for comments would expire on June 8, 2020. The GCAS Board had to move fast.
President Kyle Meredith promptly convened the GCAS Board via email. Within 24 hours a majority of the Board had discussed the issues relevant to the GCAS, formulated a response, and wrote and submitted a formal comment to the Bureau of Reclamation's DEIS. The GCAS comment supports the Hopi Tribe's input in its entirety and likewise advocates the No Action option, adding that: (1) the numerous archaeological and historic sites throughout the Gila River diversion project area reflect a number of different precursor cultures that are significant not just to the Hopi Tribe but to many other Native groups; (2) the scientific and cultural information these sites contain would be irretrievably lost if the proposed diversion occurred; (3) thus these sites merit protection and further scientific research before any feasible development decision can be considered; and (4) funds should be made available and prioritized for archaeological surveys and for any excavation or mitigation such surveys deem necessary, before any other decision or action be taken within the proposed Gila River diversion project area.
This is your GCAS Board of Trustees in action, people. Kudos!
For updates on this DEIS follow the Gila Conservation Coalition or join their mailing list.