SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is calling for proposals that would be funded with $10 million received as part of a recent settlement stemming from a 2015 mine spill that polluted rivers in three western states.
The state and the federal government reached the agreement in June. Colorado and the Navajo Nation also have inked multimillion-dollar agreements to settle claims and sort out responsibility for cleanup following the spill at the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.
Any proposed projects should aim to benefit farming, outdoor recreation or natural resources in northwestern New Mexico.
New Mexico's Office of the Natural Resources Trustee will consider applications for the settlement funding. Priority will be given to projects that are ready to begin soon and will be completed within three years.
“Regular monitoring of the San Juan and Animas rivers in New Mexico shows that the water is safe for agricultural and recreational uses, but the ongoing stigma associated with the Gold King Mine remains,” Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins said in a statement. “We encourage creative ideas that restore or replace natural and cultural resources and rebuild the region’s economic sectors that depend on clean and healthy rivers and watersheds.”
The spill released 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of wastewater from the inactive mine, sending a bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals south to New Mexico, through the Navajo Nation and into Utah through the San Juan and Animas rivers.
Water utilities were forced to scramble and shut down intake valves while farmers stopped drawing from the rivers as the contaminants moved downstream.
In addition to New Mexico's $32 million settlement with the federal government announced in June, the state reached an $11 million settlement with the mining defendants last year.