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The San Augustin Water Report and the Augustin Plains Challenge work to protect water rights on the San Augustin Plains and insure a sustainable New Mexico.

San Augustin Water Report

P.O. Box 374
Datil, NM 87821

 

carol@sanaugustinwaterreport.com

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Thousands have lived without love.  Not one without water...
D.H. Auden, quoted in "Flow: For the Love of Water"

Carol's Blog

News, Updates, and More

28 July 2019

This Week's Court Hearing

THANK YOU to the MANY folks who showed up for the hearing!!! It was PACKED, standing room only! Judge Reynolds has said he will have a decision on the case by the end of July. This water battle has been going on for 12 years and our attorneys suggested that repeated hearings on the same application should not be allowed. Sounds like a great idea, right?

NMELC and Catron County (joined by others) had asked the court to summarily dismiss the latest application because it was not substantially different from a previous application. The earlier version had been rejected by the Office of the State Engineer because it did not specify the beneficial uses of the water. The APR water miners proposed a two stage hearing, the first stage to examine hydrological and technical matters, and the second stage to take up the matter of beneficial use. Apparently there is no precedent for such a two stage hearing. Sounds like a bad idea, right?

For an audio recording of the hearing, visit The Informed Cynic's website.  For a more detailed description of the proceedings, check out Eileen Dodds' summary.  We'll post the Judge’s decision as soon as it is available

13 March 2018

Water 2018

Join me at Warehouse 1-10 in Magdalena on Saturday, March 24 for WATER 2018.  This art exhibition and panel discussion are 

a celebration of World Water Day.   Our fine artists participating in the event include Michaela Bisbee, Marisela LaGrave,

Sigrid McCabe, Michael Mideke, Demetri Gassoumis, and Mary Katherine Ray.  PANEL DISCUSSION begins at 1:00pm.  My 

fellow panelists will be State Representative Gail Armstrong, Attorney Doug Meiklejohn (NMELC), Artist Mary Katherine Rat, and

Ed Katzenberger of Water Discipleship.  If you're not familiar with Warehouse I-10, it's located at 110 North Main Street,

Magdalena NM.  You can find a printable version of the full event flyer here.

30 September 2017

Report on the State Engineer's meeting of September 28:

To those of you who showed up for the State Engineer’s meeting September 28, many thanks.  Those who couldn’t be there – you didn’t miss anything.

Here’s the problem:  no matter what the State Engineer and the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC drag us to and through, we have to keep showing up.

My impression of the meeting is that it was a Public Relations effort on the part of the State Engineer to convince protestants that he is going to do an honest and fair job evaluating this third effort by the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC to mine water in the Plains of San Augustin.

The Macey Center was full – and it’s a big place.  The presentation by the Hearing Officers was strictly on procedure, what to expect down the road regarding the application to mine water in the Plains.  We had been told ahead of time, in the Scheduling Order, that there would be a presentation by the applicant, with an opportunity for members of the audience to make comments not previously submitted in a letter.  Rather than follow that script, the State Engineer changed the purpose and content of the meeting at the last minute, taking us all by surprise.  The arrangement set up by the State Engineer at the last minute – and by last minute I mean after we arrived at the Macey Center -- was this:  the meeting was going to be devoted only to the process that would be followed in considering the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC’s water mining application.  Following that presentation, they (the Hearing Officers from the State Engineer’s Office) would answer questions.  The questions had been collected before the meeting, which was awkward because none of us knew what to expect.

Interestingly, the questions all indicated our negative stance toward this project.  There wasn’t a single positive comment and all the questions reflected our position against mining water in the Plains.  We are continuing to be solidly against this project, and if we keep on that way, we will win.

It’s going to take all of us to see this effort through and there are many ways to help.  We may have to do mailings, for example, or make phone calls.  Our network reaches far and wide and it can grow with your help.  As you know, we have raised money as part of our effort – the biggest need being for the hydrologist who will testify on our behalf.  So far we have done what’s needed and I know we will continue to do that.

21 September 2017

New Water Mining Article:

 

Matt Weiser, reporter for Water Deeply, has written an excellent article (here) about the attempt to mine water in the Plains of San Augustin.  For those who are acquainted with the effort by an international corporation to take 54000 acre feet of water each year from the basin, the article is a timely update.  For those who do not know about the application to take fossil groundwater from the Augustin Plains and send it 140 miles east and north to Albuquerque, this article is a clear statement of the facts.  This issue will affect populations far and wide in New Mexico and have ramifications beyond the basin itself.  All rural communities will be at risk for exploitation if this project is allowed to go forward.  Please remember that the first hearing on the “revised” application is September 28 at 6pm in the Macey Center on the campus of New Mexico Tech in Socorro.  Your presence will help us to fight this application.  To read Matt Weiser's article, click on the photo below.

16 August 2017

Water Researchers Tour Plains and Pittman Ranch

The annual meeting of the Water Resources Research Institute took place at the Macey Center in Socorro this year, and part of that meeting included a field trip to the Augustin Plains for anyone interested in learning first-hand about the hydrology and geology of the Plains basin.   About 20 participants traveled from New Mexico Tech to the Plains where they could see for themselves what the land is like.  August 14 was a beautiful day for the WRRI meeting participants to visit the Augustin Plains.  The sun shone, the breeze blew, everything was just right for a field trip.

Starting in the 1970s with a paper by Frank Titus, the research into the Plains geology and hydrology has continued at New Mexico Tech.  The most recent studies have been done by the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, under the direction of Stacy Timmons, Manager of the Aquifer Mapping Program.  New information is beginning to emerge, and staff from NM Tech presented some of their findings to the assembled group.

Pictured are some of the group of about 21 people, which included folks from New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, Senator Tom Udall's office, Audubon New Mexico, Sevilleta National Wildlife Reserve, Intera, Pueblo of Isleta, and some Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  Stacy Timmons is shown explaining some of the hydrology of the Augustin Plains basin.

15 August 2017

Public Meeting - September 28

The Office of the State Engineer will be holding a public meeting to address the water miners' newest application.  This PUBLIC MEETING is intended to provide information on the hearing process, explain alternate methods of dispute resolution, give the water miners an opportunity to describe their application, and allow those of us protesting the application to state our objections. The OSE summarizes the issues to be addressed as follows:

  • is sufficient water available to satisfy the application?

  • would granting the application results in impairment or detriment to existing water rights?

  • would granting the application be detrimental to the public welfare?

  • would granting the application be contrary to water conservation within the state

This PUBLIC MEETING will be held on Thursday, September 28 at 6:00 pm.  Location is the Macey Center at New Mexico Tech (801 Leroy Place in Socorro).  If you'd like to read the entire Scheduling Order, you can find it here.​

 

 

20 May 2017

We're Not the Only Ones with Water Problems

 

Unfortunately, we're not alone in fending off water grab attempts.  Here's an example from another part of the state where water is at issue.  Compared to what we're facing on the San Augustin Plains, this is small in scope, but it should serve as a warning to all of us.  If you have water and someone else wants it, you are vulnerable.  We're not just standing up for ourselves by fighting the water miners.  We're standing up for all of those communities like ours that are rich in resources but poor in policitcal clout.  If they take our water, theirs could be next.  If they take their water, ours could be next.  We all need to pull together to stop these attempts to make water the private property of speculators.  The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is defending us as well as the East Mountain communities.

24 March 2017

Legislative Summary

The 2017 Legislative session is over, and you might like to know about the issues that directly affected us.  As you are all probably aware by now, Don Tripp was re-elected in November, 2016 but abruptly resigned in January of 2017.  The Governor appointed Gail Armstrong in his place.  Gail immediately went to bat for us, and here’s how.

1) Sponsored HB 418, Inter-Basin Water Right Transfer Requirements.  This bill, which passed several committees and made it to the floor of the House of Representatives, would have regulated massive water transfers had it become law.  Howard Hutchinson worked with Rep. Armstrong as did Douglas Meiklejohn, our attorney, and they will continue working on another bill to be brought before a new session of the Legislature.

2) Opposed HB 275 Public-Private Partnerships Act.  Although a brand new legislator, Rep. Armstrong voted against this act because her constituents opposed it.  If you remember, this P3 Act would have greatly benefited the Augustin Plains Ranch water miners, who have been pushing their public-private partnership idea from day one. It took a great deal of courage for Rep. Armstrong to oppose this bill, and we owe her a debt of gratitude.

Other matters before the Legislature included a bill sponsored by our Senator Howie Morales.  SB 340 would have, had it become law, provided oversight of the federal funds the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) has been spending on a diversion of the Gila River.  The proposed law would have required legislatively approved budgets for the NM Unit Fund and forced the ISC to report the details of its actual and planned uses of the fund. To date, the ISC has spent $11 million fruitlessly in the absence of real legislative budget oversight. The ISC needs to provide basic information on technical feasibility, water yield and associated water users, project cost and financing before spending more money on a NM Unit project.  Sadly this measure failed, but we can hope that the ISC got the message:  squandering millions of dollars is not acceptable.

 

1 March 2017

Call or Email Now to Support Bill That Toughens Water Transfer Rules

 

HEARING TOMORROW (MARCH 2) ON WATER TRANSFER REGULATION:

Gail Armstrong, our new representative, has sponsored HB 418, a bill that will be heard Thursday, March 2, 1:30pm, in the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

This bill will put into place regulations regarding WATER TRANSFERS, regulations that are long overdue. Here is a link that takes you to information on that bill.   Here is information on committee members.  Let the Chairman and Committee member Candy Ezzell know your thoughts on this bill! Choose another member if you feel that's best...or contact ALL the members. Together we will win this water battle!!!!!

Chairman Matthew McQueen matthew.mcqueen@nmlegis.gov 505-986-4421

Member Candy Ezzell csecows@aol.com 575-625-0550

 

 

 

27 February 2017

NM BILL TO PRIVATIZE WATER DEFEATED

 

HB 275, which would have given the Augustin Plains Ranch everything it wanted in the way of government support, has been DEFEATED.   THANK YOU to all who contacted legislators urging them to vote against this bill...your support, and your time and effort, made the difference!!

The bill for public/private partnerships, commonly called P3s, was defeated in the House Labor and Economic Development Committee on February 27, 2017.  Our representative, Gail Armstrong, voted against the bill, even though, as she explained, she liked the bill.  She said she had to go with her constituents as they had let her know that they were concerned about this bill because of its possible relevance to the attempt to transport water out of the local area.  So we have two items of good news:  The bill, HB 275, has been defeated, AND we have a representative who has the courage to vote for her constituents’ concerns.  Thank you Gail.

We urge you to also help out by making a donation - of any size - to our fund for expert testimony in the upcoming fight in court.  You can donate here.

28 October 2016

Another Call to Action!

Nine years and counting.  The project to mine water in the Plains of San Augustin just won’t go away.  The proposal was front and center at the October 26 meeting of the Legislative Committee on Water and Natural Resources.  Ballroom B of the Fidel Center on the New Mexico Tech campus in Socorro was filled to capacity for the meeting that prominently featured the Augustin Plains. In the morning, Stacy Timmons, Aquifer Mapping Program Manager, discussed New Mexico Tech’s groundwater mapping in the state.  Dr. Timmons explained that the mapping will show where the groundwater is, how much there is, and that their work will help to determine how long the groundwater supply will last.    She pointed out that there are some areas, like the Augustin Plains, where there is not enough information, no high quality data.

Representative Tomás Salazar, District 70 San Miguel, asked if the data was relative to making decisions about the basin, and Stacy replied, “Yes.”  Representative Salazar then suggested that resources should be directed to places where there is a need for help in making decisions. The afternoon meeting continued discussion of the Augustin Plains.  Anita Hand, Catron County Commissioner and representing the San Augustin Water Coalition; Brett Bruton and Henry Edwards, both local ranchers, spoke of the hardships the water mining project would inflict on ranching in the Plains.  They spoke eloquently on behalf of the people living in Catron County and the widespread damage the project would inflict.

Chris Lindeen, Deputy General Counsel, Office of the State Engineer (OSE), was also a member of the panel, and he reviewed the process the project would need to go through (again).  Mr. Lindeen told the legislators that all protestants of the original application, as well as 150 new protestants, would be included in the process.  He stated that it would probably be a year before the first hearing would be held, stating “The more protests, the longer it takes.” Senator Pat Woods, Curry, Quay and Union, District 7, then asked Lindeen, “Do you know how much water is there?” To which Lindeen responded “The previous application was dismissed based on hydrology.”  When pressed for details, Lindeen noted that the application’s end users named were “vague”.  (Note:  applicants for water rights must be specific as to beneficial use for an application to meet the requirements of the law)

Senator Peter Wirth noted that inter-basin transfers might not be welcome in New Mexico, that, “We really need to look at this.”

Representative Candy Ezzell, Chairman of the Committee, pointed out that “if we allow movement of water like this, every rural area is threatened.”

Jeff Steinborn, representative from Doña Ana District 35, noted that “Everyone has a shared interest In water.  It isn’t just might makes right.”  He further noted that “People are brought together from all persuasions to defend water.” Don Tripp, our representative on the committee, urged the room full of people to “stay involved”.  

 

A personal note to everyone receiving this note:  You have stayed involved for a long time, and that’s the reason we can hope to win this water battle.  Thank you all. For those of you who might like to take some action, a note to Senator Wirth would be helpful.  In your note, you might thank him for his support and ask that he re-introduce SB 77 regarding water transfers.  Here is a link to the bill.   Senator Wirth can be reached by email at peter.wirth@nmlegis.gov.  The more notes the better!

1 October 2016

Water Grab Slide Show

 

Thanks to the Informed Cynic (www.informedcynic.com), Dennis Inman's informative slide show presentation is now available online.  These are the visuals used in his presentation in Magdalena on September 28.  If you'd like to view a pdf version of the slide show, click here.  If you'd like to download the Power Point presentation, visit www.informedcynic.com and click on the power point link.

20 September 2016

Call To Action

 

The Augustin Plains Ranch LLC continues to apply for water rights without stating a specific use and place of use.  That’s called speculation in water and is illegal.  Every citizen of New Mexico should object to this application.  Not only does it speculate in water, if approved it will destroy a rural community and the water mined and piped away from the Plains of San Augustin will be prohibitively expensive to people in other communities.  Do you want to enrich an international corporation or do you believe that water is a human right to be available to all?  If the latter, send a protest to the Office of the State Engineer, 5550 San Antonio Drive NE, Albuquerque NM 87109- 4127.  Refer to application RG-89943 and state your objection on the basis of public welfare.  This application, if approved, could set a precedent and affect communities throughout New Mexico.  The deadline for objections to reach the Office of the State Engineer is October 1st.

14 September 2016

NM Environmental Law Center to Judge:  "Throw it out!"

The fight to save our water from the Augustin Plains Ranch water miners is heating up.  In the wake of the "amended" water mining application filed earlier this month, attorney Doug Meiklejohn of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has filed a motion on our behalf  requesting the court to order the Office of the State Engineer to throw out the "amended" application.  Why throw it out?  It includes the same defects that caused the State Engineer to reject the original application!  You might like to read Kay Matthews' article in the online newspaper La Jicarita for more information.   Also, please be sure to click on the "Help Us Fight" link for instructions on sending your protest letter to the Office of the State Engineer.  You can make an online donation to our legal defense fund at the same time!

10 February 2016

"El Agua Es Sagrado" Day at the State Capital

 

Organized by the Center for Social Sustainable Systems and the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias, and sponsored by Senator Linda Lopez, this educational event will focus on the importance and sacredness of water and the immediate need for the protection and preservation of water resources, water rights, and traditions.  Speakers will address the immediacy in engaging in the protection of water resources and will discuss current

work that is taking place related to water across the state.  I'll be giving a talk in the 10:20 - 10:50am tim slot on our battle against the Augustin Plains Ranch water miners.  I'll post the full text of my remarks here after the conference.  Come up to the Roundhouse (state capital) in Santa Fe and join us!

15 January 2016

Like A Bad Penny, They Keep Turning Up

 

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center listed its top ten priorities for 2016, and the Augustin Plains application to mine water is among the ten. 

The Green Fire Times reported:

“Return of New Mexico’s most highly contested water grab.  The Office of the State Engineer is considering a third application from Italian billionaire Bruno Modena to speculatively appropriate more than 17 billion gallons of water every year - more than half of what Albuquerque used in 2013.  The billionaire has already pulled his first two applications, but we’ll have to see if the third time’s the charm under State Engineer Tom Blaine.  The NMELC will continue to represent nearly 100 residents of west-central New Mexico in their bid to keep water in the public trust in this hugely important water case.”

We still need your help and support in this fight!  Keep checking back for more news, and future calls to action.

8 July 2015

Comprehensive Water Plan Would Protect Community Resources

 

According to top New Mexico water officials, the state is face with having to weigh proposals that call for transferring water across basins to "where it's needed most."  Guess where they're looking?  If you said "at our water" then you're right.  Visit our Water News page to read the June 2015 article from the Santa Fe New Mexican about the current debate over water transfers.

A new position paper from the Sustainable Research Center urges comprehensive water planning with involvement by all stakeholders, with special attention to protecting the Augustin Plains aquifer.  You can read the complete paper here, and find a review of key points in the June 20 post below.

The gigantic proposed Santolina development just outside of Albuquerque poses an immediate threat to our water in and around the San Augustin Plains.  Other organizations are opposing this development as well.  Calling it a "dark veil that promises a lot and delivers very little" the New Mexico Acequia Association has come out against the Santolina project.  Their article opposing the development, for reason very similar to our own, can also be found on our Water News page.

 

Carol Pittman attended both the June 16 and June 24 hearings on the Santolina project in Albuquerque.  Her article, "County Commission Should Listen to Objections About Santolina"  was published on the NMPolitics.net website on July 8, and addresses the unrealistic nature of the project, its potential threat to Catron County water, and the commission's refusal to entertain public comment in opposition to the project.

20 June 2015

Sending our water to Albuquerque?

 

Do we want the Augustin Plains aquifer pilfered in order to facilitate massive urban sprawl in Albuquerque?  I don't think so, which is why I'm working against the Santolina  development that proposes to add nearly 100,000 new residents (and require 20 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER EACH DAY) on the southern edge of Albuqueque...convenient location, if you look at the water miners' plans for diverting OUR water in that direction.  Why not drive up to Albuquerque on June 24 and help us voice our objections to this development?  The County Commissioners will meet at 1:30pm in the Vincent E Griego chambers at One Civic Plaza.  Here's an excellent video done by New Mexico Mercury that explains the stupidity of this project quite effectively. 

5 June 2015

New Mexico needs a water use plan

 

According to top New Mexico water officials, the state is face with having to weigh proposals that call for transferring water across basins to "where it's needed most."  Guess where they're looking?  If you said "at our water" then you're right.  Visit our Water News page to read the June 2015 article from the Santa Fe New Mexican about the current debate over water transfers.

A new position paper from the Sustainable Research Center urges comprehensive water planning with involvement by all stakeholders, with special attention to protecting the Augustin Plains aquifer.  You can read the complete paper here.  Key points include:

•  The State Engineer’s responsibility should be to the historic beneficial users not special interest    groups

•  There must be a comprehensive water plan of our resources to protect all communities.

•  We need proper scientific data in order to make proper decisions that will generationally affect the citizens of the state

•  There are water rights holders that have not had an opportunity to have a seat at the decision-making table and now that has to be done

•  The Augustin Plains Basin aquifer does not recharge...once the water is gone, it's gone. 

•  The proposed Santolino project in Albuquerque threatens water resources throughout the Rio Grande region.  With it's projected need for 43,350 acre feet of water, those 99,000 new Albuquerque residents are going to end up taking our water...and a lot of other people's water...if we don't fight.  Whether the water miners of Augustin Plains Ranch will help them do it, or whether or own state government does it, the result is the same.  Our water is gone.

Please keep checking back for ways that you can help us protect our water.  We'll post meeting times, hearing dates, letter-writing campaigns, and more, as the information becomes available.

 

 

24 April 2015

Help fight the enormous Santolina subdivision project

 

Please come to the Santolina hearing on May 11 at 4:00pm at One Civic Plaza in Albuquerque.  If you're wondering why we care about a gigantic subdivision proposed in Bernalillo County, please see the March 30 post for an explanation of how this project could help the water miners steal OUR

water.    You can also take a look at my article, "Say No To Santolina," for a concise explanation of the threat posed by this massive project.  The article is presented in printable PDF form, so you can share it with your friends and neighbors.

30 March 2015

New development planned for Albuquerque spells BAD NEWS for our fight

An enormous Albuquerque subdivision could spell disaster for our fight against water mining on the plains.  You need to be at the annual meeting of the San Augustin Water Coalition to learn about what's going on and what it means to you.

Some background...the hearing on the Santolina project was held March 25, 2015 before the Bernalllo County Commission .  For those of you who don’t yet know of this project, it is a planned community of 38,000 housing units west of Albuquerque, west of the Rio Grande, and bordering I-40 to the south.  Why do we care about this development?

In the plan of the Augustin Plains Ranch to mine water there is a pipeline that will transport water from the ranch east to Socorro and north to Bernalillo county.  A comparison of the map of Santolina and a map of the pipeline shows them in close proximity.  If the project - Santolina - is approved, the APR has its “beneficial use”, and we will have a real battle stopping the water mining attempt. Hopefully we can stop both projects, but it won’t happen without your help. 

Come to the annual meeting of the San Augustin Water Coalition and learn more.  It’s your water...but it won’t be yours forever unless you act to protect it.  The meeting is Saturday, April 11, 2PM at the Datil Elementary School.

 

28 Nov 2014

Privatizing the Gila River?  No way!

 

On Monday, November 17, 2014 the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) decided to allow a diversion project on the Gila River.  This decision has extremely important implications for the water grab attempt on the Augustin Plains. Below is an analysis of how we will be affected, written by Max Yeh, one of the most knowledgable water experts in the state:

 

I think that the excessive cost of the diversion, dam and pipeline, is calculated to force the state to seek private funding for the project.  This “public/private joint venture” will be like other public/private actions.  The public will give, and the private sector will take.  While the private sector will put up funds, it will also recuperate those funds by successfully privatizing water in New Mexico.  The process of privatization of water is behind many water projects in NM.  The Augustin Plains Ranch project is just such a “public/private” venture which intends to take the control of water away from the State and put it in the hands and discretion of a for profit business.  Now the Gila diversion is deliberately being set up to become private water, too.  

Protect New Mexico’s water tradition:  keep NM water common. In April I attended a New Mexico First Town Hall, a two-day event bringing together people from all over the state to discuss the future of water.   I can tell you that an emphasis was placed on public/private partnerships, and NM First is considering a bill to be presented to the legislature this session furthering public/private partnerships. An article about the Augustin Plains, written by John Fleck, appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on Monday.  In the article, Fleck states:  “Depending on your view of the issue, this is either: a) an

innovative approach to bring new water to the Middle Rio Grande Valley, or b) an inappropriate attempt to privatize a public resource that could devastate the rural community where the water originates.”

Action is needed:  a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez, protesting this decision by the ISC, and asking her to rule out privatizing water, could go a long way to help put a stop to the idea of public/private partnerships.  We need to act fast.   Here is a sample letter which you can print out, sign, and mail. 

6 Nov 2014

Back to Court?

We continue to fight the water miners' efforts to take the water from the Augustin Plains basin.  It is important to understand that the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear our petition, while it was a disappointment, does not mean that we are out of options.  We could just wait for the State Engineer to take his time evaluating the “new” application (he can wait indefinitely, there's no time limit), but that’s NOT an option. Remember that Bruce Frederick has to fight this battle for us on the basis of legal technicalities, as the water miners have provided no substantive information.  The applications, both new and old, fail to meet the requirements of the law.  Submitting a "new" application is a game being played by the Augustin Plains Ranch.  And we need to stop the game. The wheels of justice move slowly, but stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on progress to stop the

water grab.

 

26 Oct 2014

 

Water Miners and State Engineer respond to petition

 

Well, it didn't take long for the water miners of the Augustin Plains Ranch and the State Engineer to file counter-arguments in court.  Both submitted responses to the petition for writ of mandamus that was filed in September on our behalf by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  Both pick at

technical issues and claim that the state supreme court should not intervene in deciding the water mining application.  The Office of the State Engineer wants to decide...and the OSE now appear to be the water miners' new best friend. 

 

3 Oct 2014

 

Making News Headlines Across the Country

 

Following the press release from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the AP wire picked up our story, and our water battle in Catron County has been in headlines aross the country, from Miami to Los Angeles.  One of the best and most thorough of these articles appeared in our own local

El Defensor Chieftain on September 25, 2014.  Yours truly was quoted in the article:

“My husband and I love New Mexico, and we just wanted a quiet retirement in Datil,” says petitioner Carol Pittman. “When the Ranch filed its first application in 2007, none of us wanted to get involved in a drawn-out proceeding.  But we did because it was the right thing to do.  I hope the Supreme Court will step in and stop this scheme once and for all, not only for the people of west-central New Mexico, but for the people in our state’s other rural communities.  Because this is going to be a big problem for them too if the State Engineer opens the door to water grabs.”

The article also reminds us of something vitally important...that this is a fight whose outcome will affect ALL of us profoundly.  The Pittmans may be the litigants of record, but everyone in the region faces a threat to their lives, lifestyles, and livelihoods.  Here's another excerpt from the article in the

Chieftain:

 

The Ranch’s 2007 application drew over 900 protestants from almost every sector of New Mexico’s population, including the Pittmans, as well as hundreds of other individuals, acequias, irrigation and conservation districts, corporations, and local, state, federal and tribal governments.

“Millions of dollars and the future of New Mexico’s public water are at stake,” the petition states. The 2007 application was denied by State Engineer Scott Verhines and a District Court after five years of litigation. Just like the 2007 application, the 2014 application seeks to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet of water per year, but fails to indicate exactly how or where the water will be used, as required by the state Constitution.

“By keeping the intended use vague,” attorney Bruce Frederick said, “The Ranch hopes to speculate in future water markets and ultimately sell to whoever the highest bidders may be in seven counties.”

We are in this for the long haul.  There is too much at stake to give up...even if it takes seven more years!  Thank you all for your support, and keep checking back for more news.

 

 

22 Sept 2014

Supreme Court Asked To Throw Out New Water Mining Proposal

 

As you are well aware we have been opposing the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC’s attempt to mine water here in north Catron County for seven plus years.  The appeal by APR to the decision by Judge Reynolds to deny the application was scheduled for July 21 and cancelled two days prior on the pretext that a “new” application should be considered.  We all know now that the “new” application was little different from the original proposal.  Clearly some action was needed to stop this farce.  Below is a press release that describes what we did:  a petition to the Supreme Court filed by our attorney Bruce Frederick is what we hope will stop the State Engineer and the Augustin Plains Ranch playing games with the process.

Residents ask state Supreme Court to rule in Augustin Plains water grab case: “Millions of dollars and the future of New Mexico’s public water are at stake” (Bruce Frederick, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center)

Santa Fe, NM -- Today, a retired couple from western New Mexico asked the state Supreme Court to order the State Engineer to dismiss a massive speculative water appropriation application from Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC (“APR”).

In their petition for a writ of mandamus, filed by attorney Bruce Frederick of the non-profit New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Ray and Carol Pittman state that a second application filed by APR this summer is “identical in all material respects” to the application that APR filed in 2007. The 2007 application was denied by State Engineer Scott Verhines and a District Court after five years of litigation. Just like the 2007 application, the 2014 application seeks to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet of water per year (afy), but fails to indicate exactly how or where the water will be used, as required by the state Constitution. “By keeping the intended use vague,” said Frederick, “the Ranch hopes to speculate in future water markets and ultimately sell to whoever the highest bidders may be in seven counties.”

Under state law, the State Engineer has a non-discretionary duty to dismiss applications that that fail to specify any particular purpose or place of use of water or end user. Courts use writs of mandamus to compel recalcitrant government agencies to perform clear duties required of them by law. In this case, the Pittmans petitioned the state Supreme Court to “order the State Engineer to promptly reject [APR’s] 2014 application.” “The State Engineer must reject the 2014 application for the same legal reasons that he denied the 2007 application,” said Frederick.

“The District Court ruled that the State Engineer had no choice but to deny the 2007 Application,” said Frederick, “because it did not indicate how or where the Ranch intended to use the tremendous amount of water it was seeking. We’re hoping that the Supreme Court takes up our petition and reaches the same conclusion regarding the 2014 Application. This would avoid years of additional litigation and save investors from wasting money on an illegal project.”

9 September 2014

Thought-provoking article on the ethics of water mining

 

Dennis Inman's new article, "Economic Development vs Exploitation," examines some of the important questions - ethical, practical, and political - that are impossible to avoid in considering the current water mining attempt on the San Augustin Plains.  The questions he raises are good ones, and we ought to think about how we want them answered.  Here's a sample:

It is generally believed that growth is important if we are to keep our state abreast of other states.  But is this goal of economic development in the best interest of all the state’s residents?  When we are talking about the state’s resources and the use of them, where is the line between economic

development and exploitation of the resources?

5 September 2014

Funny business at the State Engineer's office?

 

There's something fishy going on that smacks of a back-room deal between the water miners and the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.   The following excerpt from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center newsletter seems to sum up the suspicious chain of events pretty clearly:

The Augustin Plains Ranch LLC water grab case began because the Ranch, which is owned by an Italian billionaire, seeks to monopolize 54,000 acre-feet of water (enough to supply half the needs of Albuquerque) to sell to the highest bidder.  The New Mexico Environmental Law Center has been fighting this case from the beginning. "We led the effort to demonstrate that the application was unconstitutional," said Staff Attorney Bruce Frederick. Based on the Law Center’s arguments, the State Engineer and a District Court Judge denied the Ranch's application.

The Ranch appealed.  (Note: this is the August appeals hearing that was abruptly canceled.)

It appears the State Engineer is now working with the Ranch to deprive our clients of their day before the Court of Appeals. The State Engineer has accepted a second application from the Ranch. Although this second application is substantially identical to the first, the Ranch and the State Engineer convinced the Court that the Ranch's appeal was moot. The Court dismissed the appeal, sending us back to square one.