Statement from Secretary Norton

Media Contact: Kip White, (202) 271-8577

For Release: June 17, 2003

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson met today to discuss issues relating to the Middle Rio Grande and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion handed down last week.

Following the meeting, Secretary Norton issued the following statement:

"The 10th Circuit opinion represents a significant setback for collaborative efforts and it makes a difficult situation more challenging.

"The 2003 Biological Opinion we are operating under is a good plan. It allows portions of the river to dry up while putting in place important steppingstones for long term recovery of the minnow. Simply put, the biological opinion is our best opportunity to solve the challenging water supply situation facing the people of the Middle Rio Grande Basin as well as the silvery minnow.

"My department remains committed to doing everything possible to stretch limited water resources during this extreme drought year while complying with the law to protect the minnow. We will continue to work diligently New Mexico and the congressional delegation to find a dependable and lasting water supply for the people and Middle Rio Grande environment.

"I appreciate Governor Richardson's continuing interest in working with this Administration to find solutions to these difficult issues. I also applaud his efforts to secure credit water agreements, which are of strong importance to everyone’s efforts to address this very difficult water supply situation. "

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