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Supreme Court ruling saves flood-threatened towns

August 12, 2013

Residents of Temacapulin rejoiced last Thursday at the news that the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation had blocked plans to flood the town by raising the Zapotillo dam to 105 meters.

Although the official ruling will not be made until next week, the decision was widely reported in the Mexican press and confirmed by numerous state officials. The Supreme Court found that a 2007 agreement to raise the Zapotillo dam from 80 to 105 meters, thus flooding the local communities of Temacapulin, Palmarejo and Acasic, was invalid because  then Jalisco Governor Emilio Gonzalez and his Guanajuato counterpart Juan Manuel Oliva had not sought ratification from the Jalisco Congress.

Jalisco’s present governor, Aristoteles Sandoval, could resubmit the plans to Congress if he wanted to expand the dam on the Rio Verde to ensure a greater water supply for Jalisco and Guanajuato, but he promptly ruled out any such action. As governor-elect, Sandoval had promised to stand up for the local residents, although since taking office he admitted that the federal government would have the final say.

Upon hearing of the ruling, Sandoval said he would first have to study the final decision when it comes, but vowed not to allow the dam to be raised above 80 meters.

“Our position remains clear, our position is firm and our position is to stand by the judgment of the Supreme Court,” Sandoval said.

The municipal government of Cañadas de Obregon, which had filed the constitutional challenge against the construction of a 105-meter dam, also said that it will work to ensure that the Supreme Court ruling is respected.

While the residents of the affected towns celebrated, local congressman Hector Pizano Ramos of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was quick to blame Gonzalez for wasting state resources and showing “contempt” for the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government in Jalisco.

“Of course there is an economic impact,” Pizano told La Jornada. “All investments for the 105-meter project are lost. This represents a financial impairment which is the fault of the previous governor, who did everything illegally, as was made clear by the court.”

Jalisco’s secretary general, Arturo Zamora, also of the PRI, said that the ruling eases pressure on the state government, but added that they must now find alternative means of supplying water to the Guadalajara metropolitan area, without further draining the already depleted Lake Chapala.

Governor Sandoval said that his administration was investigating alternatives and had already begun construction of the Purgatorio dam in the Huentitan Canyon, which would guarantee water supply to the metropolitan area for 30 years.

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