State office seeks proposals for restoring natural areas harmed by Gold King Mine spill

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee is seeking ideas from the public for projects that will restore natural resources injured by the Gold King Mine spill.

In January, the State of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation announced separate multimillion settlements with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent companies, Kinross Gold Corp. and Kinross Gold USA Inc., over the Gold King Mine breach on Aug. 5, 2015 north of Silverton, Colorado.

The rupture released millions of gallons of water laden with toxic metals and acidic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers, causing pollution to agricultural areas and hurting agricultural and recreational tourism industries.

The $10 million settlement to New Mexico included an additional payment of $1 million to the Office of Natural Resources Trustee to carry out natural resource restoration projects in areas affected by the mine spill.

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A Farmington resident stops to look at the Animas River at Berg Park in Farmington on Aug. 8, 2015, after it was contaminated with waste from the Gold King Mine spill.

The office is asking for ideas as part of the preliminary stages to use the amount.

"This outreach is an important step toward restoring natural resources affected by the release," the office's press release states.

Litigation continues in the lawsuits filed by the state and the tribe against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its contractors in federal court, according to the release.

Projects eligible for funding should have a connection to the Animas River, San Juan River or both in addition to:

  • Benefit surface water, wildlife and/or aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Benefit the services these natural resources provide, such as irrigation or outdoor recreation.
  • Address any existing impairments to the rivers.

"Eligible projects must have a broad public benefit and a direct tie to the environmental injuries caused by the release, including adverse economic impacts," the release states.

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Additional information about the process, eligibility and evaluation criteria is available on the Office of the Natural Resources Trustee website, onrt.env.nm.gov.

The deadline for submitting project ideas is Sept. 14, the office announced the afternoon of Aug. 6.

Projects will be selected, and a final restoration plan will be published by January, according to the release.

A group of people watch as the discolored Animas River flows through Berg Park in Farmington on Aug. 8, 2015, in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine spill.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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