The Augustin Plains Ranch project, New Mexico’s version of a trend toward meeting urban needs in the west by pumping rural groundwater in to cities, is taking another whack at winning state approval after losing resoundingly two years ago:
A for-profit group hoping to pump New Mexico groundwater to the Rio Grande Valley and sell it to thirsty cities has asked state water managers for a new hearing on a proposal the Office of State Engineer turned down two years ago.
Augustin Plains Ranch LLC, an investment group that includes the owners of a ranch near Datil in the high country west of Socorro, is again proposing to pump groundwater and send it through a pipeline that would follow the Rio Grande north to the Albuquerque metro area.
The new proposal seems to have the same deficiency that caused the previous one to go down in flames – the failure to identify a “place and purpose of use”, something the State Engineer said was essential to state review and approval of the water transfer:
Augustin Plains Ranch repeats its prior approach – listing all possible water uses in much of a seven-county area from Socorro to Santa Fe. The ranch, in its filing with the state, said it hopes to win preliminary approval for the application before specifying who will use the water, and where.
That drew quick criticism from attorney Bruce Frederick with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center in Santa Fe, who represented a number of the 248 people who protested the group’s previous application.
“The application is a public relations piece and suffers from the same basic legal deficiency as the prior applications – the ranch has again failed to identify any actual place or purpose of use of water,” Frederick told the Journal.