Archive for the 'New Mexico' Category

May 31 2013

NM: Well driller licencing moves

Published by under New Mexico,wells

The Well Driller Licensing Program of the Office of the State Engineer has moved from the District II-Roswell office to the Statewide Projects Group within the District VI-Santa Fe Water Rights Division in the Bataan Building at 407 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe NM 87504-5102.

To drill a well in New Mexico, the well driller must hold a valid license issued by the Office of the State Engineer. Continuing education is required for license renewal every two years for well drillers and drill rig supervisors. This education is part of the Rules and Regulations Governing Well Driller Licensing, and Construction, Repair and Plugging of Wells.

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Apr 17 2013

NM: BurRec, Corps planning for drought

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 17 released their Annual Operating Plan for the Middle Rio Grande.

As we head into our third consecutive year of severe drought, Reclamation is focused on working closely with all partners to operate to meet both water user needs and flow targets under the 2003 Biological Opinion for the Rio Grande silvery minnow.

In a dry year, the biological opinion requires Reclamation to keep the river wet to Isleta Diversion Dam. Below that diversion dam and in the San Acacia reach, the river can be dried in a controlled manner after June 15. The current model projection for demand to meet flow requirements is somewhere between 65,000 and 80,000 acre-feet, however that forecast assumes minimal monsoons.

The April forecast data released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows snowpack volumes throughout northern New Mexico are approximately 45 percent of average. The inflow at El Vado Reservoir is expected to be about 80,000 acre-feet of water or about 36 percent of average. The inflow at Heron Reservoir is expected to be about 45,000 acre-feet or about 55 percent of average.

Reclamation is currently negotiating additional water leases and expects to have approximately 40,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water to supplement river flows. Reclamation is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and other stakeholders to optimize the use of supplemental water. Reclamation will again be working with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to move water from El Vado Reservoir to Abiquiu on the weekends to allow for rafting flows on the Rio Chama.

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Mar 26 2013

NM: Mescalero water rights bill introduced

U.S. Representative Steve Pearce again introduced a bill to allow the Mescalero Tribe of southern New Mexico to lease unused, excess water. The new bill H.R. 1377.

“I reintroduced this legislation that passed the House last Congress,” said Pearce. “This bill gives the Mescalero Apache Tribe an opportunity for economic growth, and regional communities will be able to access desperately needed water.”

Mescalero Apache President Frederick Chino Sr. thanked Pearce for his work. “We thank Rep. Pearce for his leadership in reintroducing this bill and for his friendship and commitment to the Mescalero people,” said Chino. “The Mescalero Apache Tribe is working hard to ensure that the needs of the Mescalero people and surrounding communities are met, and that the region continues to grow and prosper. Water is one of our most important resources, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe Leasing Authorization Act will allow our Tribe to better manage our water, and allow us to work with our neighboring communities on water usage…The Mescalero Tribe also appreciates and acknowledges the City of Ruidoso, our neighbor and partner on this legislation.”

Ruidoso Mayor Ray Alborn emphasized the importance of the bill for the local community. “I appreciate the persistence of Congressman Pearce and the cooperation of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in working on this bill. Water is critical for all of us, and this bill is a huge step forward for the community. I am thankful for the hard work of Rep. Pearce, his staff, President Chino, and the Mescalero Tribe. The cooperation among all those involved has been excellent, and will benefit Ruidoso, the Mescalero Tribe, and the surrounding area.”

The legislation would permit the lease or transfer of water rights for a term of up to 99 years provided the lease or transfer complies with the laws of New Mexico. The bill both promotes economic growth and emphasizes self-determination rights for Native American communities. Revenue gained from leasing this water would enable the Tribe to invest in vital services for their reservation, such as infrastructure improvements, elder care, and scholarship programs.

Pearce introduced the bill in the 112th Congress, where it saw strong bipartisan support, successfully passing the House of Representatives.

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Mar 25 2013

NM/CO: Animas-LaPlata title negotiations continue

The Bureau of Reclamation, Navajo Nation, and city of Farmington, N.M. are continuing title transfer agreement negotiations for the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline, part of the Animas-La Plata Project. The meeting with the city is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at the Farmington City Hall Executive Conference Room in Farmington, N.M. The meeting with the Navajo Nation is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 28, 2013, at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Conference Room in Chinle, Ariz.

The title transfer agreements will convey title to each portion of the NNMP facilities or reaches of the pipeline to the Navajo Nation or the city.

All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the title transfer agreement during a thirty minute comment period following the negotiation session.

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Mar 14 2013

NM: Pueblos sign water rights settlement

A water rights settlement agreement was formally signed by state and federal leaders on March 14 in Santa Fe, including New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The landmark settlement will resolve the claims of the Pueblos of Nambe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, and San Ildefonso in one of the longest-running federal cases in the United States and a decades-long water rights adjudication in New Mexico.

This settlement was formerly signed by the Pueblos of Nambe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, the City and County of Santa Fe, other non-Pueblo parties, and the State of New Mexico in 2006. Federal legislation was passed in 2010 authorizing the settlement and the construction of a regional water system to bring water into the Nambe-Pojoaque-Tesuque Basin in northern New Mexico. This settlement is known as the Aamodt Settlement after the first name listed in the water rights adjudication.

Leaders from all four Pueblos, State Engineer Scott Verhines, Attorney General Gary King, the Mayor of Santa Fe, Commissioner Kathy Holian and representatives for the County of Santa Fe, will be present to sign the conformed Settlement Agreement with Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at a signing ceremony to be held at the Bureau of Indian Education Indian School in Santa Fe.

“New Mexico has resolved one of our state’s longest, most contentious water disputes which began in the late sixties. I am honored to sign the settlement and am confident that we have protected water rights; thereby providing certainty to all and ending longstanding litigation for our citizens. I am proud that the Pueblo leaders from Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque and San Ildefonso, the acequia parciantes, the federal government, the state representatives, and everyone involved have worked together to find a solution” said New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. “This is proof that we can come together, work out our differences, and come to a positive agreement on behalf of our citizens.”

“We are resolving decades of disputes, preserving the seniority of water rights for the Pueblos and protecting the rights of the non-Pueblo users. I am grateful for the hundreds of people and thousands of hours that have been dedicated to reaching this landmark agreement. I urge New Mexicans to continue working together as we implement the terms of this settlement and keep New Mexico moving forward.”

The Settlement is complex and is based on many key concepts including: The Pueblos agreeing not make priority calls against non-Pueblo users, provided the non-Pueblo users agree to one of several options outlined in the Settlement Agreement. A regional water system (pipeline) will be constructed to deliver treated water to Pueblo and non-Pueblo users in the basin. Connecting to the pipeline will be optional.

The United States will acquire 2,500 acre-feet of imported water per year in the basin for use by the Pueblos to compensate them for not fully exercising their rights to make a priority call. Santa Fe County is responsible for acquiring 750 acre-feet per year of imported water for the benefit of non-Pueblo users, and for a total supply of 1,500 acre-feet per year for use by non-Pueblo water users in the basin.

The Settlement Agreement and supporting documents are available for public review at the Office of the State Engineer’s website at:

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Feb 07 2013

NM: Habitat restoration may help with supply

Published by under New Mexico

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission has scheduled additional construction and maintenance to begin in mid-February on the Atrisco Habitat Restoration Project to reduce vulnerability to the drought and help protect both our environment and water users.

The Atrisco Habitat Restoration Project is part of the agency’s effort to create and enhance habitat for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and other native species in the Albuquerque reach of the river. These efforts contribute to federal Endangered Species Act compliance and help water users in the middle Rio Grande valley, especially during these times of drought.

Area residents should expect truck traffic to cause temporary traffic slowdown on Central Ave west of the Rio Grande Bridge from February 11-25 as crews haul materials to the project site.

Construction of the project will occur in the Rio Grande Bosque and floodplain about one-half mile north of the Central Avenue Bridge on the west bank of the river within Rio Grande State Park between February 28 and March 20. Access to construction areas will be restricted from 7:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday however, bosque trails should remain accessible. The public is urged to use caution when construction equipment is present and to obey all safety signs.

The Interstate Stream Commission is working on this project with cooperation and support from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, Bureau of Reclamation, City of Albuquerque Open Space Division, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Feb 02 2013

NM: Jal underground water basin closed

Published by under New Mexico

State Engineer Scott Verhines, PE, said on February 1 that the Jal Underground Water Basin in Jal, New Mexico is closed for an indefinite period of time to the filing of well applications.

“Office of the State Engineer staff has completed a study determining there are no unappropriated waters in the Jal Underground Water Basin,” said State Engineer Scott Verhines. “The closure of the basin is a measure to sustain valid existing water rights.”

The Jal Underground Water Basin closure is covered under Section 72-12-3 NMSA 1978 for new appropriations of underground waters. Any applications submitted for filing to the Office of the State Engineer will be rejected.

A river basin is said to be closing when the amount of water needed to meet both social and environmental needs and the varied demand for water begins to exceed the amount of water available.

The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state’s water resources.

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Jan 08 2013

TX/NM: Suing again for water delivery

Published by under New Mexico,Texas

The State of Texas on January 8 filed a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to command New Mexico to deliver water apportioned to Texas under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact between the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado to divide the waters of the Rio Grande.

“It is unfortunate that we have had to resort to legal action, but negotiations with New Mexico have been unsuccessful, and Texas is not getting the water that it is allocated and legally entitled to,” said TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein.

Because of New Mexico’s ongoing litigation to avoid its water obligation, Texas finally felt compelled to act to protect its rights to the water legally apportioned to it.

“The State of New Mexico is currently in active litigation in both state and federal courts in New Mexico in an attempt to circumvent the Rio Grande Compact and the operation by the United States of the Rio Grande Project,” Rubinstein said. “The complaint filed today by the State of Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court is not intended to adversely impact the State of New Mexico’s right to allocate its water resources, but is focused on protecting the rights of Texas to Rio Grande water under the 1938 Compact through the operation of the Rio Grande Project. By ignoring the compact, New Mexico is already causing harm to water users in Texas, and it will only get worse in the future unless something is done now.”

“These illegal diversions of water in New Mexico are having an ongoing negative effect on the amount of water available for use by Texas farmers,” said Pat Gordon, Rio Grande Compact Commissioner. “The city of El Paso also counts on Texas’ water allocation for half of its water supply. Our attempts to negotiate a resolution with the State of New Mexico were not successful and only resulted in New Mexico initiating very aggressive litigation aimed at capturing water that belongs to the Rio Grande Project and the State of Texas. Our dispute is not with New Mexico farmers who are part of the Rio Grande Project. Texas had no choice but to take action against the State of New Mexico in the U.S. Supreme Court to protect its rights under the 1938 Compact.”

This is a complex legal action, but key points include:

• Historically, water apportioned under the Rio Grande Compact has resulted in approximately 57 percent of the water supply below the Elephant Butte Reservoir being delivered to New Mexico, and 43 percent being delivered across the New Mexico-Texas state line for Texas.

• The State of New Mexico has allowed a reduction of Texas’ water supplies and the apportionment of water it is entitled to under the Rio Grande Compact. New Mexico is illegally allowing diversions of both surface and underground water hydrologically connected to the Rio Grande downstream of Elephant Butte Reservoir. These extractions of water through 2011 have amounted to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of acre-feet annually. The illegal diversion of this water is negatively impacting water flows in the river, taking water that is released for the Rio Grande Project beneficiaries, including the State of Texas. Essentially, New Mexico is delivering water to Texas at Elephant Butte Reservoir and then re-diverting Texas’ water below the reservoir as it is being released to Texas.

• Grave and irreparable injury has occurred and will be suffered in the future by Texas and its citizens unless relief is afforded by the court to prevent New Mexico from using and withholding water which Texas is entitled to, and which New Mexico is obligated to deliver, under the Rio Grande Compact and Rio Grande Project Act.

• The State of Texas is requesting no action from the State of Colorado. They are included only because they are a signatory to the compact.

The U.S. Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction of this suit. The complaint can be seen here.

If it accepts the case, the court has in similar cases appointed a special master to hear the case.

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Nov 08 2012

NM: Snow melt aimed for Elephant Butte

Published by under New Mexico

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission continues to
collaborate with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to maintain the 20+ mile long Elephant Butte Reservoir pilot channel. The pilot channel is constructed within the upper dry portion of the reservoir that has become exposed by the drought. The length of exposed area varies each year requiring work to be conducted annually to maintain connection with the reservoir. The pilot channel extends south along the Rio Grande valley from near Fort Craig, New Mexico to South Monticello Point at the top of Elephant Butte Reservoir.

“The Interstate Stream Commission is performing maintainance to the river channel to direct as much water as possible into Elephant Butte Reservoir this winter and during the snowmelt runoff next spring.

This effort is one of the tasks the NMISC performs to help get water to New Mexico farmers. The pilot channel has been estimated to save between 10,000 to 20,000 acre feet of water per year. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of water consumed by 4,500 to 9,500 acres of middle valley farmland, annually. That’s a lot of water for our irrigators and other users,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López.

The primary native Rio Grande water storage reservoirs for farmers in the middle and lower Rio Grande valley are low in part because of drought. Therefore each additional acre-foot of water making it into Elephant Butte Reservoir will help New Mexico next year. The purpose of the Elephant Butte pilot channel is to keep the Rio Grande river hydrologically connected with the reservoir and capture as much water as possible. The Elephant Butte Pilot Channel can be clogged with vegetation if not maintained because there is not enough natural flows within it’s banks the past few drought years.

Winter maintainence is scheduled to begin the third week of November and is anticipated to continue through January 2013. The NMISC has retained the services of a primarily New Mexico based crew, Wilco Marsh Buggies, to perform the work using amphibious excavators suitable for the harsh working conditions far from maintained roads/ The Bureau of Reclamation obtained the necessary 404/401 permits pertaining to any work conducted in navigable waterways and to protect water quality. The joint permits were issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Mexico Environment Department.

The pilot channel is an engineered channel about 150 to 300 feet wide and 3 to 5 feet deep with berms roughly 5 to 10 feet high. The 20 mile long channel is designed to convey river flows ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 cubic feet per second. The upper seven miles of channel were constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation under a Cooperative agreement with the NMISC, and the lower 13 miles were constructed by Wilco Marsh Buggies. The project is being funded through a State of New Mexico appropriation from the Improvement of the Rio Grande Income Fund. Between $750,000 and about $2 million annually has been spent and about $750,000 will be spent with Wilco Marsh Buggies this winter.

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Nov 02 2012

NM: Court rules for engineer on administration

Published by under New Mexico

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Tristate case involving the constitutional challenge to the State Engineer Active Water Resource Management rules for priority administration during water supply shortage today.

The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed both District Court and Court of Appeals finding that Active Water Resource Management rules for priority administration and concluded that AWRM rules are constitutional. Specifically, the Supreme Court found, “We reverse both the Court of Appeals and the district court by holding that AWRM does not violate constitutional separation of powers limitations. On an issue not reached by the Court of Appeals, we reverse the District Court by holding that AWRM does not violate due process. Finally, addressing an issue not reached by either court below, we hold that AWRM is not unconstitutionally vague.”

“Today’s ruling upholds the water management tools which are exactly what New Mexico needs to navigate the difficult drought conditions burdening our state,” said State Engineer Scott Verhines “The last twenty-four months have been the hottest and driest in recorded state history. Active Water Resource Management gives New Mexico the ability to respond to our variable water supply.”

This 2005 lawsuit was originally brought forth by Tristate, New Mexico Mining Association and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District against the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer as a reaction to the 2003 legislation directing the State Engineer to create Priority Administration rules. Those rules were created in 2004 and the subsequent lawsuit has bound this issue in a legal battle until today.

“Our Active Water Resource Management rules as written in 2004 are now in effect,” said Office of the State Engineer Chief Counsel DL Sanders. “Our staff will proceed to implement those rules in our seven priority basins.”

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