On July 3, the Cochiti Project office, Albuquerque District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had the honor of hosting water managers from various countries in the Middle East.
The visiting managers represented the countries of Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen. This opportunity was made possible through the International Visitor Leadership Program, a program set up through the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of this visit was for the managers to understand how the United States manages water resources. This international and multicultural event allowed both visitors and hosts to exchange information about the various ways of managing water issues throughout the world.
Mark Rosacker, Cochiti Lake operations manager, opened the meeting by discussing how people from various countries are working on the similar issues.
“Even though we come from different parts of the world and different cultures, we all have similar types of issues – whether they are socioeconomic, ecological, cultural, or other,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity to discuss issues and compare solutions to issues that affect all of us. There is always room for all of us to learn from other cultures,” he said.
The event also included a presentation and discussion about water management on the Rio Grande, presented by Albuquerque District members Dennis Garcia, chief, reservoir control branch, and Ryan Gronewold, Rio Grande basin coordinator.
Dr. Abdullah Saif Salim Al-Ghafri, Assistant Dean for Training, University of Nizwa, Oman, commented that these issues, political, ecological, socioeconomic, water, are now global.
“We no longer have a choice of whether or not to work together,” he said. “The entire world now has to deal with the same ecological issues; water is one of the most important issues,” he said.
“Countries no longer have the choice to stay and plan from just within their own borders. What one country does has direct effect on all others,” he said. “It is now essential to work together to create long-lasting and workable solutions to the world problems” said Al-Ghafri.
Rosacker shared the story of the building of Cochiti Dam with the visiting water managers; in particular, he shared the fact that the Corps did not communicate very well with the Pueblo de Cochiti in the very beginning of building the dam. The result of this lack of communication was that it destroyed the Cochitis’ trust in the Corps. However, the Corps apologized to the pueblo people years ago.
“That apology was the beginning of rebuilding our mutual relationship,” said Rosacker. “We now work together to solve current problems and issues,” he said.
Some of the visiting managers were impressed by the fact that 1) the Corps admitted that mistakes in communication were made on its part, and 2) even though in the beginning the relationship between the Corps and the Pueblo de Cochiti was rocky at best, both sides have worked together to rebuild the relationship.
“Although the Corps made mistakes in the beginning, the relationship has been healed and now we take the next step into the future together,” said Rosacker.
“Discussing this story gives us hope when working in our own countries, said Al-Ghafri. “We often have this same type of miscommunication between our government and the local people,” he said.
“This is just the beginning of our relationship with all of you” said Rosacker. “My wish is that we continue to work together and learn from each other: today, tomorrow and in the future.”