Deadlines loom for Gold King Mine spill restoration project proposals

Office of Natural Resources Trustee, AG's Office administering programs

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Those who intend to apply for some of the $10 million in funding for restoration projects related to the 2105 Gold King Mine spill are nearly out of time.

Applicants have until 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28 to submit a proposal for their restoration project to the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee. That agency is administering the settlement the state reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year for injuries caused by the mine spill.

Contractors working on behalf of the EPA caused the release of millions of gallons of contaminated water from the Gold King Mine that eventually made its way into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

New Mexico reached a $32 million settlement with the federal government over damages caused by the spill, and $10 million has been set aside for projects that replace or restore injured natural resources or the services they provide — including river, land, habitat and watershed restoration and conservation — or projects that compensate the public for the loss of natural resources after the spill.

The mouth of the Gold King Mine, located north of Silverton, Colo., is pictured on Aug. 10, 2015, several days after a crew working on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency breached the mine, causing toxic wastewater to enter the Animas River.

A deadline of Sept. 30 originally was set for project submissions, but that date was extended to Oct. 28 after it became apparent that some potential applicants needed more time to prepare their proposals, according to Maggie Hart Stebbins, the natural resources trustee.

Once the new deadline has passed, state officials will prepare a draft restoration plan outlining the proposals that were submitted and prioritizing them for implementation. After a public comment period, a final restoration plan will be adopted in which one or more projects will be implemented.

Proposals can be submitted via email to

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General has announced it is seeking grant proposals for nearly $4.3 million in additional funding designed to address harms in northwest New Mexico related to the mine spill, including harms based on public perception of the impacts of the spill.

According to a news release, the AG's Office is seeking proposals from New Mexico government agencies, as well as county, municipal and special district government entities, along with nonprofit organizations and tribal governments.

Water from the Animas River mixes with the San Juan River on Aug. 8, 2015, shortly after the Gold King Mine spill.

The projects should benefit farming, outdoor recreation, natural resources or other values in northwest New Mexico, the release states, including drinking water protection, control or mitigation of pollution sources, and land and habitat conservation.

Economic development projects related to agriculture, outdoor recreation or mining reclamation also would be eligible for the funding, as would public education projects regarding the safety of regional agriculture products.

The grant proposals must be submitted by 3 p.m. Dec. 2. They should be emailed to The grants will be awarded on Dec. 16, according to the news release.

"We were forced to sue the federal government and bad actors in response to one of the worst environmental disasters in New Mexico, and I am hopeful that these recovery dollars will positively help out our tribal and rural communities," Attorney General Hector Balderas states in the release.

For more information about the grant program and to access the request for proposals, visit

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: