Speeches Archive

Signing of Minute 319 to the Mexican Treaty

Remarks Delivered By:
Michael L. Connor, Commissioner

San Diego, Calif.

November 20, 2012

Minute 319 Agreement Signed

Secretary Salazar and his remarks, starting with how proud the Bureau of Reclamation is to be a participant in this historic agreement. Also for me, as Sally alluded to, there's great personal satisfaction in today's agreement. I grew up 40 miles from the border in the El Paso-Juarez region, and it's a pleasure and very satisfying to be a participant in an effort that brings, I think, our two countries closer together.

With respect to the agreement, you've heard a lot about Minute 319 and the various aspects, and I won't go into all the wonderful benefits that I think you will have for both countries, but there are a few remarks that I want to make about the agreement and some areas I want to highlight.

I was listening to the local NRP radio station this morning, and I heard Minute 319 referred to as the US and Mexico agreement to a united front against future drought. So, as a threshold matter, I think the operational provisions, the water infrastructure, and water management improvements, as well as the environmental benefits that will take hold as a result of Minute 319 are much more far reaching than simply drought protection. That certainly is one aspect, but it's not the only aspect.

But I really like the description, though, that was in the radio report, referring to a united front. The United States and Mexico share a border. We share a common culture, and we share natural resources that are critical to our collective wellbeing. It's entirely appropriate that we also share in the strategies and the solutions necessary to adjust water resource challenges that will, quite frankly, will only increase with time.

In two to three weeks, the Bureau of Reclamation, with the great help of our partners at Seven Basin States, we will release a Colorado River Basin study that will highlight water supply and demand imbalances that will occur throughout the Colorado River Basin through the year 2060.

On average, as indicated in that report and some of the technical work that's already been released, on average that imbalance could be as much as 3.2 million acre feet on an annual basis.

The study will also identify strategies to address the projected imbalances. Clearly today's agreement between the US and Mexico will be an integral aspect of that overall strategy, and it will protect both countries' long term interests in water resources in the basin.

Minute 319 is a crowning achievement in an unprecedented three years of cooperation between our two countries. Under IBWC's leadership, we've signed four significant minutes, counting the minute that we'll sign today, Minutes 316, 317, and 318.

These minutes demonstrate that we are more than just neighbors. We are now partners from here and into the future.

In conclusion, I want to talk about the process and the teamwork, because as alluded to here also, I think that's just as important as the substance itself. I want to recognize some of the key players who made today possible, although I recognize that there are so many key players that I will not be able to name each person individually.

I want to start with Commissioner Salmon and Commissioner Drusina. I want to thank you and your teams for your commitment, leadership, vision, and as Commissioner Salmon referenced, trust.

I also appreciate and highly value their friendship. It's been alleged that this minute took four years, approximately, to negotiate, because we enjoy each other's company so much. I categorically reject that allegation, but I am anxious to get started on Minute 320.

I also want to thank Director General Lueje, Mario Lopez, and our partners in CONAGUA. Back in 2010, we were very lucky to have CONAGUA host us in Mexico City, and during the course of the conversation, in my preparations for that trip down to Mexico City, I'd looked at the CONAGUA water plan, and I think I remarked to the director general at that point in time that his water plan could've equally served as the Bureau of Reclamation's strategies for dealing with our water resource issues.

We are in sync with respect to the strategies that we need to employ for our countries, and I think that's part of why we're in such a worthwhile partnership today.

Finally...Not finally, but our state partners, the Seven Basin States, who have so many leaders. You'll hear from Pat and Bart here today, but so many leaders who in their ideas, their support, their resources, and their energy, and we could not be here where we are today, and we could not be facing the challenges that we face without some hope, without that vision and that leadership from our basin state partners.

Of course, I do want to mention all the wonderful folks at the Bureau of Reclamation. First of all, not the Bureau of Reclamation, but he's an adopted son, Bob Snow, in our solicitor's office, who is the long standing continuity, the legal continuity, the historic continuity, for all that's taken place in the Colorado River Basin states.

Bob plays a special role, as all of you know, and we highly value his participation in this process.

Terry Fulp, our regional director, has also stepped in at a critical point in time as our new regional director, and committed endless hours on the technical side of working through a vast array of issues. Terry's commitment and leadership are invaluable.

Also, we have on our team Larry Walkoviak, Amy Witherall, Russ Callejo, and Terry Wilson. All who have done an incredible amount of work making today possible, and of course I'd also like to recognize...Oh, there you are. Lorri Lee, our former regional director in the lower Colorado region who is now our Pacific Northwest Regional Director.

Lorri was instrumental in those other minutes that I mentioned, who turned on a dime after the earthquake in Mexico, and worked hand-in-hand with the states and with our partners in Mexico to help put together Minute 318, and extraordinary effort and a valuable effort in this process. So, thank you.

Finally, I have to just mention our agenda and our priorities of The Bureau of Reclamation are driven by Secretary Ken Salazar's vision. I'm grateful for his leadership, support, and his trust. It's that leadership and that vision and that urgency of addressing the challenges that we face in water resources that leads to the commitment of all Interior's agencies to address these challenges and to work towards partnerships like the one we're recognizing today.

I say congratulations to all of you, to all of us and we look forward to implement this historic minute.