Aug 24 2010
The running battle between the city of Las Cruces as the nearby Moongate Water Company accelerated in August as the city and company traded shots in their contest for limited area water supplies.
Both of them have been drilling to the Jornada Bolson aquifer, which has seen some lower levels in recent years. Each blames the other
The city has considered trying to take control of the aquifer under eminent domain powers.
On August 23, the company released this:
Moongate is a public utility providing safe clean water at reasonable rates to about 14,000 people. Together with our customers we have built this system from scratch. We have listened to our customers and from the beginning in 1971 met our customers’ needs and the growth in our area. Ninety percent of our customers are outside of the City and we share their concern of takeover by a government in which they have no vote.
The mistaken Mayor has and continues to make false statements:
1. “Negotiations have been going on 5 years” – Moongate has never offered itself for sale to the City – The City Council has never authorized any amount of payment – No member of the current Council has ever met with and negotiated with Moongate.
2. “The City can take water from its Mesilla Valley water rights and ship it to people in the Jornada” – The City has for the past several years been pumping almost all of its approximately 22,000 acre feet of valley water rights – the City in its application for Jornada wells to the State Engineer claimed that it needed the Jornada wells because it was using almost all its valley water rights and there were no more water rights to be granted in the valley.
3. “Moongate is a threat to the Jornada Basin” – The City is pumping approximately twice times as much water from the Jornada as Moongate during the last 3 years – with its valley water rights virtually exhausted, the City has been serving the growth in its water needs from the Jornada since 2002 – the City is exporting water from the Jornada basin to areas outside the basin.
The New Mexico State Engineer has the responsibility and the authority for protecting the Jornada Basin – in 1996, the City sought to export unlimited amounts of water from the Jornada basin to supplement its valley water rights – Moongate protested and the City was limited in the amounts that it could export from the Jornada basin.
The Mayor’s cries that the basin will run dry, the basin will run dry, are like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling. When the City sought well permits from the State Engineer in the Jornada basin, the City’s expert hydrologist stated that there were 12,000,000 (12 Million) acre feet of fresh water in the Jornada basin and 8,000,000 (8 Million) of those acre feet could be pumped and used. The State Engineer and City’s experts acknowledge that the amount expected to be used now is less than 10,000 acre feet per year and under all water rights existing, about 22,000 acre feet per year. At today’s rate of pumping of 10,000 acre feet, 8,000,000 (8 Million) acre feet would last for 800 years and that is without calculating the approximately 5,000 acre feet per year basin recharge. At double that rate of pumping, which would allow for all of the existing water rights, the basin would be expected to last over 400 years.
What’s really happening is the City is trying to slow or stop Moongate’s growth by frightening Moongate’s customers and potential customers. The City has shown that it is unwilling to make the financial and legal commitments that are part of a real condemnation. Instead, Mayor Miyagishima and Councillor Conner talk about the resolution not as a real condemnation but as a negotiation method, a “negotiation tool”, a method of forcing Moongate to sit down and negotiate.
The Mayor and Councillor obviously see the resolution as putting a gun to Moongate’s head to surrender to the City’s terms. It appears that the City Mayor and Councillors are testing the water to see if this would benefit their campaigns in the upcoming city election next year.
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