Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Northern NM Water Deal Advances

From today’s newspaper, the U.S. House has approved legislation ratifying the settlement of two longstanding northern New Mexico water rights cases (sub/ad req.):

The U.S. House of Representatives approved two northern New Mexico water agreements Thursday, a step toward allocating the region’s water rights and providing nearly $300 million in federal funding for water projects in the region.

The legislation ratifies a deal that settles the water rights claims of the Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Tesuque and Taos pueblos. It also calls for construction of a regional water system in and around Santa Fe County to serve the area pueblos and non-Indian water users, including many who now have their own wells.

One Comment

  1. Next up on the OSE’s hit list: State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Abbott, U.S. District Court Cause No. CIV 7488 & 8650, which involves the water rights of 14 Acequias and all the residents of the traditional Hispanic communities along the Santa Cruz River between Chimayó and Española.
    The case centers on a claim by Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo ( that prior to the arrival of Spanish settlers (circa 1598) and the inception of The Santa Cruz de la Cañada Grant in 1695, pre-historic members of the pueblo had constructed and were using what are now the Santa Cruz and Llano acequias and that as a result of the proceedings of the Pueblo Lands Board, acting pursuant to the Pueblo Lands Act of 1924 (43 Stat. 636), the Pueblo has pre-existing water rights for 12,000 acres of land.
    The Pueblo Lands Board applied the Spanish Colonial Government’s arbitrary assignment of a territory of four square leagues
    ( to all of the Pueblos in NM (as a result of the US Government having accepted and used that figure after its annexation of NM and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848), totally irrespective of the actual amount of land being used or held at that time by each of the Pueblos. Ohkay Owingeh’s claim is based not only on the actual 68 acres of land they acquired as a result of the Land Board’s local proceedings, but also a contention that they have a legal claim to the water rights associated with 12,000 acres of land because of their intention to eventually purchase that amount of acreage. This incidentally amounts to claiming approximately a third of the water which the Santa Cruz Dam can now hold.
    When the Cruz Dam and Reservoir was completed in 1929 it had an active storage capacity of 4,493 acre-ft. This irrigation storage provided a relatively reliable water supply and enabled Santa Cruz Irrigation District (SCID) farmers to establish high-income crops. However, since 1929 approximately half of that storage capacity has been lost through an accumulation of silt, which is causing steadily increasing water shortages and taking a tremendous impact on the communities which are dependent on the dam.
    The loss of $1.4 million in Capital Outlay funds that the state legislature had allotted for making improvements to the Santa Cruz Dam and Reservoir(after hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on preparing required studies and surveys) will result in the loss of $4.5 million in federal funds, which in all probability will effectively put an end to any realistic hope of restoring the storage capacity of the dam.
    For what it might be worth the Pueblo has already received more then $3 million dollars from the US government to prepare its case, while the Santa Cruz Irrigation Association (which represents the Acequias) has had about $300,000 for that purpose.

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